You may feel embarrassed discussing how to get tested for STDs with your friends, family, and even your doctor. You may be worried about symptoms you’re already experiencing or regretting a poor decision you’ve made. Despite the uneasiness you may feel about the subject, if you’re having sex, you need to know about STDs and take the necessary steps to protect yourself as well as your partners. That means having the necessary, and let’s face it, often awkward, conversations with the people you’ve had sexual intercourse with as well as being tested for STDs as often as needed. Otherwise, you’re putting yourself at risk for contracting an STD and risking the possibility of passing along an STD to someone else.
If you’ve never been tested for STDs before, then we know you have a million questions and concerns. Where should you go? What should you be tested for? How long does it take to get results? We’ve assembled this guide on how to get tested for STDs to help answer these questions and more.
You Can’t Ignore The Problem
It’s very important to understand that STDs are diseases. You should treat them seriously. They can cause serious health issues and you can’t ignore them away. They can even lay dormant for weeks or months, which means you or your partner may not even be aware of having one until it has already been transmitted to someone else. If you suspect you may have contracted an STD, the first step you should take is getting tested. Then, you’ll know which disease you may have and can work with a medical provider to treat it.
Where Should You Go To Get Tested For STDs?
Getting tested isn’t as hard as you may think. You used to have to undergo physical exams to effectively diagnose STDs. The vast majority of STDs can now be diagnosed through urine samples and simple blood tests. Many times you can visit your primary care doctor or gynecologist and have them examine and test you. If you’re not comfortable with your doctor or would prefer a more convenient solution, you can even use a telemedicine service like PlushCare. You can order your STD tests on the website of PlushCare or by phone, visit the nearest local testing center, and receive your results within a few days. If your results indicate you need treatment, their Care Team will set up an appointment with one of their top-trained physicians who can provide a treatment plan and prescribe medication all from your phone or computer.
How Much Does STD Testing Cost?
Depending on how comprehensive your insurance is, being tested for STDs and receiving the appropriate treatment may be a little pricey. The cost of STD tests and treatments depends on which tests and treatments you need.
If you’re fortunate enough to have preventative screenings and treatments covered, then it should be an easy decision to get tested as soon as or before you notice any symptoms. Most of the time you will only have to pay a small copay for the laboratory tests with insurance. You should determine which tests you may need and then contact your insurance provider and ask what is covered under your health plan.
Without health insurance, testing can be much more expensive and cost anywhere between $50 and $200 per test at your doctor’s office. You also have to factor in the cost of the visit and any treatment costs. If you don’t have adequate health insurance, a good alternative to turn to is Planned Parenthood. The tests and treatment are provided relatively inexpensively, and even at reduced cost or no-cost if you qualify based on your income. The downside is you need to take time out of your day for the exam and the process is lengthy.
If you don’t have a doctor or wish to skip a visit and just head straight for the lab, PlushCare works great for individuals with and without health insurance. You’ll just be charged your copay if you have health insurance through Aetna, Cigna, or Blue Cross Blue Shield. Even without insurance, PlushCare has negotiated special lower rates with the testing labs. Then for the visit, if you need one, you pay a $99 flat fee for your first visit and $69 if you’re a returning patient. PlushCare also accepts payment via a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA). Seriously consider using PlushCare for STD testing.
How Does STD Testing Work?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one test you can undergo to screen for every STD. For each infection, there is a different test and a different method of testing. When you get tested you’ll be asked if there is a specific STD you want to get tested for or if you want to go ahead and get tested for them all, including HIV. Your healthcare provider will want to know they type of symptoms you are having, if you have ever had an STD before, whether your partner(s) has or had an STD, and if you’re a woman, when your last period was. Tests are then done either using a urine sample or blood sample.
Here are the various STD tests you can have done and how the tests are conducted:
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
These are very common STDs. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are most common in men and women ages 15-24. Symptoms usually include a burning sensation when urinating and/or white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis. Tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea are done either using a urine sample or swabbing the cervix or inside the penis. It’s important to note that you may not always show signs or symptoms of chlamydia and gonorrhea so getting tested for these two STDs is important. Both can be treated and cured with antibiotics.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection passed through sexual intercourse. There are multiple stages of symptoms for Syphilis. The first is painless sores on the mouth, genitals, or rectum. Once the sores heal, the second stage is characterized by a rash. In the final stage, you may not show symptoms for years. If left untreated though, syphilis can damage the brain, nerves, eyes and heart and may lead to death. Fortunately, if you test positive for syphilis, it can easily be treated and cured with antibiotics. Syphilis is most often tested using a blood sample, or fluid from a syphilis sore can be tested as well.
Did you know an estimated 3.7 million men and women in the US have trichomoniasis? It is an infection caused by a parasite and only about 30% of those infected ever develop symptoms, which can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation of the genitals. Men and women will also typically experience discharge from their genitals. Your healthcare provider will take a sample of the discharge and have a laboratory test it. “Trich” is easily treatable though with a single dose of prescription antibiotics.
Human Papillomavirus, or “HPV” as it is often referred to, is the most common STD in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s so common that nearly all sexually active men and women will be infected at some point in their lives. HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact during sexual intercourse and can be passed when no signs or symptoms are present. Unfortunately, no testing is available for men. Women can be tested using cell samples from the cervix. In most cases, an HPV infection will resolve itself on its own but it can cause genital warts and can lead to cancer in the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis, and throat in high-risk cases. There are vaccines available now to lower your chances of being infected. The CDC recommends all boys and girls ages 11 or 12 should be vaccinated for HPV. There is no treatment for HPV.
Herpes is an STD that affects 1 in 6 individuals and cannot be cured. Herpes actually refers to two separate viruses – herpes simplex type 1 and herpes simplex type 2. Herpes simplex type 1 (or HSV-1) usually only causes cold sores around the mouth and lips, while herpes simplex type 2 (or HSV-2) causes sores around the genitals and rectum. HSV-1 can be transmitted through kissing or sharing utensils. HSV-2 is contracted through sexual intercourse. Both can be spread even when sores are not present. The appearance of herpes is often enough to confirm a diagnosis, but lab testing can be done if a healthcare provider is uncertain. Testing for herpes is usually done via a blood test but can be done through the fluid from a herpes sore. While herpes cannot be cured, there are medications that can help to alleviate the pain and lessen the symptoms and sores.
HIV and AIDS
You’ve undoubtedly heard of HIV and AIDS. A diagnosis of HIV is serious and it is the STD that rightfully frightens most people. HIV is an abbreviation for “human immunodeficiency virus.” It is a virus that lives in human blood, fluids and breast milk and severely weakens your immune system so your body has a more difficult time fighting germs, viruses, and other invaders that make you sick. HIV leads to AIDS, which is an abbreviation for “acquired immune deficiency syndrome.” AIDS is the condition when your immune system stops working because of HIV. Many mistakenly believe HIV and AIDS are the cause of death, but people with HIV and AIDS actually die from other illnesses their body is not able to fight off due to having HIV and AIDS. In other words, with AIDS your immune system is not even able to battle the common cold and eventually your body succumbs. Many, many people around the world have died due to being infected with HIV and many, many more are infected today, especially in parts of Africa and growing numbers in parts of Asia and Eastern Europe. An HIV diagnosis is made through blood or oral swab tests. There is currently no cure for HIV or AIDS, but many medications have been developed over the last two decades that help to strengthen the immune system in order to prevent the onset of AIDS. Being diagnosed with HIV was once a death sentence that would be carried out within a few years. While that is still the case in some parts of the world, an HIV diagnosis will have a dramatic impact on your life but with the treatment available today, many are living longer with a higher-quality of life.
When Can You Expect STD Testing Results?
The time in which you will receive your STD results will vary depending upon where you had the tests conducted. It could take as little as a few days or as long as a couple weeks. With PlushCare, your doctor will send the lab referral electronically to the most convenient testing facility in your area and you will be emailed or receive a phone call from a doctor with the results in 3 business days or less.
What Do You Do If You Test Positive For An STD?
As you’ve undoubtedly learned by now, there are a varying degree of STDs you can contract. Some can be treated with a simple prescription antibiotic within a few days. Others have no cure and may result in serious illnesses and dramatic life changes. In all cases, you should take a proactive approach and get tested so you can work with your healthcare provider to formulate a plan and treat the STD.
No matter who you are, where you come from, or what your circumstances are, make sure you take the necessary steps to protect yourself and anyone else you may be putting at risk. Sexually transmitted diseases are illnesses that should be take seriously. Take preventative measures – have the necessary conversations with partners and use protection like condoms. Then, if you have reason for concern, get tested and treated as often as needed.
Take the easy and cost effective route: get tested with a service like PlushCare.This post contains advertisements and/or affiliate links. For more information, see our disclosure here.