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STD Testing

Things to know about STD testing centers

If you're sexually active, getting regular STD testing is a wise idea. STD tests can detect conditions that are currently asymptomatic. Also, since early detection is key to the successful treatment of many STDs, it is very important that you see a doctor if you have any symptoms that concern you.

The most common STD tests administered by doctors are screenings for gonorrhea and chlamydia, which are highly recommended if you've recently had sexual contact with a new partner or if you have multiple sex partners. Your doctor will test for other sexually transmitted diseases at his or her discretion, based on your risk factors for contracting them. You can also ask to be tested for specific diseases, such as HIV, scabies, pubic lice and syphilis.

Where to Seek STD Testing

You have several options at your disposal if you want to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Many people visit their family doctor to be screened for the most common STDs. However, if you prefer anonymous STD testing, you'd be better off going to a specialized clinic.

STD clinics have the specialized resources to test for a complete range of infections, diseases and conditions, including rarer STDs like molloscum contagiosum, chancroid and mycoplasma genitalium, among others. Many of these STD testing centers give patients the option to undergo anonymous STD testing to protect their confidentiality. Most municipalities offer a sexual health clinic as part of their health services network.

If you're in school, you may be eligible for free STD testing through a campus clinic. People covered by comprehensive health insurance plans may also qualify for free STD testing at approved clinics.

What to Expect from STD Tests

The procedure you'll undergo during your STD tests varies, depending on your sex and the disease you're being tested for. STDs with physical symptoms can sometimes be diagnosed through a physical examination; in such cases, tissue samples are taken and a lab will confirm the diagnosis. Other diseases can be detected through laboratory analysis of a blood sample.

However, be aware that some infections, particularly chlamydia, thrive in the dark and protected conditions found deeper in the interior of both male and female sex organs. Thus, women may be given Pap smears to screen for these diseases. Men may need to have samples drawn from their urethras, which will necessitate swabbing. This can be painful, so be prepared and ask the person administering the test ahead of time what you can do to minimize your discomfort.

Remember that abstinence is the only sure way to prevent all STDs and unplanned pregnancies. If you choose to be sexually active, select your partners wisely and be open and communicative about your sexual histories, or go get tested together to ensure neither of you has a problematic condition.

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