If you are sexually active, especially with more than one partner, you’ve almost certainly been told to use protection and get tested several times.
We’re told this because it’s possible to get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) without ever realizing in, putting their sexual partners at the greatest risk because they won’t take any greater protection than usual. Actually, this possibility is the reason that doctors have started to use the term sexually transmitted infection (STI) instead, because you can become infected without presenting any disease symptoms.
You never want to hear “I was tested for everything” from a potential sexual partner; that’s a sure sign they have no idea what they’ve been tested for, if at all–a surprising amount of people assume that they are tested for STDs during their annual physical, but this is never true. The vast majority of the time, you’d have to make the request for such testing at the office.
But what kinds of tests should you get, and how often? These answers depend on your risk factors and your sexual behaviors, as well as your age.
STD Testing in Boston
The CDC recommends that anyone who has sex should be tested for STDs on a regular basis to ensure they’re safe and for peace of mind. This can be done at your doctor’s office or through a number of testing centers located around Boston, even for a reduced cost.
But for many people, even this is not enough encouragement to visit one of these locations. The reasons for that include:
- Free clinics can feel overwhelming and stigmatizing
- Asking the doctor in person can equally seem overwhelming, as well as even discussing risk factors
- Some doctors may be unwilling to test for STDs, breeding resentment in their patients
Shame and stigma surrounding STDs are the primary reason people stress about getting tested at their doctor’s office, especially for those who have gone to their doctor for a long time and are quite familiar with one another. Not only that, but it turns out lots of doctors are also uncomfortable discussing STDs and safe sex, which ends up making it even harder for them to talk about what kinds of tests you need to get.
To make matters worse, several doctors, especially those who work in private practice, believe that their type of patients are not at any risk of getting an STD, but that’s simply not true; there are zero sexually active populations that have such a low risk that they would not benefit from regular screening.
Regardless of these barriers to STD testing in Boston, there’s no reason not to include a round of tests as a part of your annual self-care thanks to the benefit of online services like STDcheck, where you can get fast and accurate results.
What Diseases are Tested?
The most common STDs, and the ones that you’ll generally want to be tested for, are:
- hepatitis B
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
With 3 million new cases in America every year, chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted bacterial infections. In most cases, it doesn’t present any symptoms, but it can still cause problems in the infected person if it doesn’t get treated.
Gonorrhea is another bacterial infection that tends to go hand-in-hand with chlamydia, so it is common for them to be tested together at the same time. Like chlamydia, it doesn’t always have the clearest symptoms, but males may experience swollen testicles, pain when urinating, or discharged.
In both cases, you’ll need to do a urine test to check for either infection. Chlamydia may require a throat or anal swab, depending on your sexual behaviors. In all cases, antibiotics will treat the condition.
Herpes, Syphilis, and Hepatitis
Herpes is much more common than you think–over half of Americans have had oral herpes since childhood. Unlike other STDs, herpes is highly contagious beyond sexual fluids. Unfortunately, it can’t be cured, which is why it has as much stigma as it does. However, effective medication exists to reduce the risk of both transmission and outbreak.
Syphilis might be one of those STDs that sound like they’re only in the past, but it’s started to come back again; males have experienced the highest rates of infection, the rates of which increased between 2014 and 2015. It can be cured, but you need to catch it early to avoid brain damage.
The term “hepatitis” literally just means an inflamed liver, but the cause of that inflammation can be due to several viruses. In the United States, types A, B, and C are the common ones; A can be transferred through sex and through infected food, B is highly contagious through sex, and the historically-incurable C normally only transfers through blood.
To detect each of these, you’ll need to draw blood.
Everyone should test for HIV, regardless of sexual orientation; nobody is immune!
How to Get Online STD Testing in Boston
There isn’t just one test that can screen for every STDs, let alone paint a picture about your overall sexual health. Anyone who is sexually active with any number of partners should be screened for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and, if applicable, cervical cancer. The CDC also recommends that all sexually active people between the ages of 13 and 64 get screened for HIV.
To get started, you’ll need a lab requisition, which you can order through STDcheck if you’d rather avoid a doctor’s visit. Wherever you want to get it, the requisition is what tells the lab what to test you for. To protect your privacy, you’ll be given a unique ID code that is destroyed after the process is complete. Note that positive test results must be reported to the government by the lab for statistics, but since your ID is never attached to the code, this will not compromise your privacy.
Taking the Sample
Depending on your personal needs, you may need to order a variety of STD tests and undergo several types of exams to diagnose your issue. More often than not, you’ll need to take a blood and urine tests. These can detect several STDs, such as:
Blood may either be drawn from the arm or by finger prick, and the urine tests are as straightforward as they sound. Depending on the infection you’re testing for, it can sometimes take months before the test will accurately pick up on an active infection; testing earlier than the incubation period will not prove accurate.
Receiving Your Results
After you have gone to the lab and submitted your samples for the tests, you’ll simply have to wait for your results. In many cases, you will need to wait until a week since not all labs provide same-day results. When your results are ready, you’ll be able to log in to the STDcheck database with your unique ID code and receive them.
If you get the results back and they are positive, try not to panic; this is more common than you may think, and those that aren’t easily curable can treat their symptoms and maintain their same quality of life. You will have the ability to speak one-on-one with a physician through STDcheck, which will involve a prescription for your treatment and a small fee for the service. If your treatment includes antibiotics, be sure to continue until you run out; never stop the antibiotics early just because the symptoms aren’t there anymore, because the bacteria may still be present.
Antibiotics may not help with viral infections, but there are medications that can help prevent herpes outbreaks and to keep HIV levels from rising.
Perhaps even more than getting treatment, the most important thing for you to do after receiving a positive STD test result is to tell your sexual partners. As challenging as it may be, it is ethically–and legally–necessary to inform your partners about their risk of exposure. Even if you have undergone treatment, it’s entirely possible to get re-infected by the same partner, so it’s simply a good idea to ensure your partner is treated too.
If you are sexually active at all, it’s just good practice to regularly get yourself tested for STDs in order to ensure your health and that of your partner are in good shape. The following recommendations serve as general advice from the CDC regarding regular STD testing:
- All persons between the ages of 13 and 65 should get at least one HIV test
- Sexually active females under the age of 25
- Older females who have multiple or new partners, or who are monogamous with an infected partner
- Those who are pregnant should be screened for hepatitis B, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV to ensure both parties are healthy
- Those who are pregnant and at risk should have repeated gonorrhea tests if recommended
- Any sexually active bisexual or gay male should test for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis annually
- Any person who has shared needles with someone else should test for HIV
- Any person who has had unsafe sex should test for HIV
- Males who have sex with multiple males or who have anonymous sex should have more frequent tests for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea–consider as often as every three months
- Sexually active gay or bisexual males would likely benefit from more regular HIV testing
Practicing Safer Sex
Regardless of your test results, it’s possible to maintain a healthy sex life by committing to good practices and by staying educated on symptoms. For example, barriers like condoms and dental dams can greatly reduce your risk of spreading an STD or becoming infected by one.
Additionally, remember that penetration is not the only way to express your intimacy. No-risk activities include:
- Mutual masturbation
- Sharing fantasies
Low-risk activities include:
- Manual stimulation
- Oral sex (best with a dam or condom)
Talking About Safer Sex
When talking about safer sex with a current or potential partner:
- Use “I” statements, like “I want us to be safe,” rather than “You need to do this.”
- Remind your partner safe sex benefits the two of you
- Talk when you are both relaxed and not distracted
- Be clear about your demand to use protection; if there’s no protection, there’s no sex
- Inform your partner that protection lets you enjoy sex even more, since you will not have to think about getting pregnant or getting infected
- Keep the conversation flowing in both ways, you should talk AND listen