You know, Coach Carr from Mean Girls wasn't totally off his rocker when he was teaching his health students about safe sex. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), when left untreated, can sometimes cause really serious problems! Which is why it's always a good idea to go and get yourself tested.
Well shoot, what kind of tests do I have to take? Is there a written portion? Am I gonna be graded? Worry not, because we've outlined some of the basics of each STD test you would take:
Gonorrhea & Chlamydia: If you’re testing for gonorrhea or chlamydia, all you need to do is give your clinician a sample of your urine. Lots of places will actually test for chlamydia and gonorrhea at the same time! Then they take your sample and send it to the laboratory, where they look for the bacterium that causes gonorrhea (called Neisseria gonorrhoea)and chlamydia (called Chlamydia trachomatis). You can also test for chlamydia and gonorrhea using a swab sample of your cervix, vagina, urethra, rectum, or throat.
Syphilis: Syphilis is also caused by a bacterium (Treponema pallidum), and your clinician will have to take a small blood sample to test for it. You might have sores on your genitals, so your clinician will also look at them, as they could also be a symptom of syphilis.
HPV: Here's the thing with HPV: there isn't screening test for teens or young adults. Luckily, most types of HPV infections will just go away after a period of time. But if you do have HPV and it's a particularly high-risk type, you may also have symptoms like genital warts.
Herpes: Testing for herpes is tricky. If you have herpes, then you may also have sores or blisters. Your clinician will check those sores out and may also take a sample of them and/or your blood to check for the virus, but even so the test results aren’t always clear.
Hepatitis B: Hepatitis is a virus that actually results in your liver being inflamed. You can get it from having unprotected sex as well as through other means, like sharing a needle with an infected person. Your clinician can test for hepatitis by taking a blood sample and looking for proteins made by the virus.
HIV/AIDS: Unfortunately, many people don’t know whether or not they have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The HIV test is typically a blood test, although you can also find out with a cheek swab test.
Sometimes, people talk about STDs without really mentioning why or how they can be so bad. To tell the truth, STDs can really be very bad for your overall health. While some can cause discomfort, if left untreated, they can lead to serious problems infertility and even death (lots of famous people suffered from STDs, including Freddie Mercury, William Shakespeare, and Winston Churchill.) Lots of times, there are no outward symptoms for gonorrhea, chlamydia, or HIV until someone is pretty sick, so you do need to get tested regularly to find out if you have it.
Remember, the only way to prevent the spread of STDs is by using condoms every time you engage in any sort of sexual activity, or by practicing abstinence. It ends up that Coach Carr was somewhat right! Now everybody grab some rubbers.