Periodic STI screening is an important aspect of sexual health, physical health, and emotional well being. Knowing ones STI status can be an empowering, eye-opening, and sometimes life saving experience. One reason why periodic screening is so important is that many STIs can remain asymptomatic (but still transmittable) for long periods of time. Nevertheless, not every trip to a health provider includes an STI screen. A common misconception is that STI testing is included within the process of every physical examination or Pap screen with a doctor. Though samples may be collected during a normal trip to the doctor, it is important to talk to your doctor about the type of tests that you would like to have run and are the most relevant for you.

What types of tests are offered?
There are a few different ways that a health provider might offer an STI test. Some of the options include a visual inspection and physical exam looking for sores, warts, discharge, rashes, or unusual odors, a blood sample, a urine sample, or a swab of saliva, discharge, tissue, or cells. Planned Parenthood offers a great guide to the different types of tests that can be run for various STIs. Testing options and availability vary by infection and health care provider. Some common tests run include:

HIV/AIDS: blood test (common), oral swab test, and urine (rare)
Chlamydia: physical exam, discharge swab, cell sample, and urine test
Gonorrhea: discharge swab, cell sample, and urine test
Herpes: physical examination (if outbreak present), blood test, and test of fluid from herpes sore
Syphilis: blood test and test of fluid from syphilis sore
Trichomoniasis: discharge swab

What now?
So what happens after getting tested? The second really crucial aspect of STI screening is communication with your doctor about the results of your tests. While it may seem obvious, results are not always clear about exactly what tests were run. Depending on the type of test, results could take up to a week to come back and everyone has the right to know the results for each specific test. In addition, if multiple tests were run and treatment is necessary, it is good to know and document which tests come back negative and which, if any, come back positive.

Why does it matter?
Keeping record of tests and results is an easy way to keep yourself (and your partner(s)) safe and to keep your sex life as fun and sexy as it always should be! STIs don’t need to be a topic approached in a negative or shameful manner. Testing results should be seen a source of empowerment and self-love. Be sure to ask your health care provider about tests that are available and appropriate for you!

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