Couple on sofa with TV remote There are public health announcements strewn across billboards, shouted over music in commercials and sitting on the side of your computer screen as you scroll through your Facebook newsfeed. The government and health organizations have been trying to spread the word for decades: Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

Get Tested For Your Safety

The main reason you should get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and/or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is for your own health. Many STDs and STIs can lead to very serious consequences if left untreated. For example, if left untreated chlamydia can cause irreversible damage to the reproductive system.  Gonorrhea can cause reproductive damage and other serious infections in the rectum.  Hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.  Syphilis can lead to blindness, heart disease, neurological problems and death. Of course there is also HIV/AIDS, which alone will not kill you, but it will weaken your immune system so drastically that a flu can easily take your life.

Get Tested For Others’ Safety

Another very important reason to get tested for STDs is so that you have the knowledge to inform others about your condition and take precautions. It is illegal to knowingly infect another person with certain STDs and STIs. In the case of HIV, the court may look at it as attempted murder, as they have in several cases around the United States.

The W’s of STD Testing

What: STD testing is simple and while there is no one test for all of the different sexually transmitted diseases, your health practitioner can help you decide which test is right for you. They will likely test you for the most prevalent STDs in your area, unless you have symptoms, have been sexually active in another country or have a specific concern about a lesser common sexually transmitted disease.

Some of the factors your practitioner may take into consideration in order to decide what tests should be done include:

  • Use of condoms or alternative protection
  • Number of sexual partners
  • Body parts used during intercourse
  • Present symptoms, duration, prior outbreaks, etc.
  • Personal history of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Last menstrual cycle.

There are four different tests that might be done to check for various STDs:

  1. Physical exam: The practitioner will look at the genitals to check for any signs of infections.
  2. Blood sample: This can be just a few drops of blood with a prick or it could mean a vile of blood being drawn through a needle.
  3. Urine sample: You will be asked to fill a small cup with a few ounces of your urine.
  4. Saliva, cell, tissue or discharge sample: This will be collected by your medical practitioner on a swab and it will then be reviewed under a microscope.

Where: There are many places that you can go for STD testing. The hospital is always an option, your family doctor, or there are also health clinics in most cities that provide STD testing. If you are concerned about the expense of sending tests to a laboratory, there are centers that do free STD testing. Click here to find free STD testing near you.

Who: If you are sexually active, you should consider being tested for STDs. Many individuals think that their provider will automatically test, but this is not the case. It is especially important if you have been sexually assaulted or if you had sex without a condom or other protection. You should also get tested if you have any symptoms.