Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on September 13, 2011

How do I get tested for STDs?

What tests detect STDs? Is there one test or are there a series of tests?

answered by
Lisa Oldson, MD on September 13, 2011

Thanks for asking questions that are probably on a lot of other people’s minds, as well.
 
There is no single test for all STDs. There are, however, groups of tests that you can take all at once to screen for the most common STDs. These are called multi-panel tests. If you choose a multi-panel test, you can provide a blood sample and a urine sample at one local testing facility. Those samples will be used to screen for several STDs. Testing facilities often use a urine test to look for STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea. A blood test is used to screen for STDs including HIV, herpes simplex virus 1 and 2, syphilis, hepatitis b and hepatitis c.
 
If you’re a female and would like to get tested for the human papillomavirus (HPV)...see your regular doctor. Why? HPV testing requires a pelvic exam or a Pap test that can’t be done at a standard STD testing facility. There’s no HPV test, yet, for most men. However, men who have ⎼ and specifically, receive ⎼ anal sex can and should get regular anal Pap tests from their doctor. 
 
For anyone who’s sexually active, getting tested once a year is a great way to stay on top of your STD status…from there, if you test positive for an STD, you can get treated and become more knowledgeable about how to reduce the risk of spreading an infection to others.
 
And if you have multiple sexual partners, a history of unprotected sex or any other lifestyle conditions that put you at a greater risk for STDs, I encourage you to get tested every six months.
 
Also, please note that many doctors don't automatically screen for STDs, so be sure to ask your doctor specifically for the tests you think you need.
 
To find more about STD testing, prevention and risk factors, see our Expert Guide to STD Basics.
 
Thanks again for writing, and I wish you good health.
 
Related info:

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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