Science and medical technology continue to expand our options for preventing and treating disease. For that reason, people are often surprised to learn that in 2018, infection rates for certain sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) have surpassed record levels in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis infections climbed from 2014 to 2017. In 2017, 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were diagnosed, setting a new record high; prior to 2017, the record high was 200,000 cases in 2016. These are only three of the multiple STDs that affect people around the country and in Las Vegas every day.
The CDC estimates that, when accounting for all sexually-transmitted diseases, approximately 20 million new STD infections occur each year. Awareness is critical to reducing infection rates. Unless people who are sexually active receive regular testing, the potential of contracting and spreading a disease is high.
Getting Tested in Las Vegas
The STD infection rate has been rising at an alarming rate. Now, it is more critical than ever for people who are sexually active to get tested and to continue getting tested regularly. STD testing is accessible to people all over Las Vegas without regard to income level. For people who have health insurance and a primary care position, the most straightforward way to get all of the recommended STD tests is to call their doctor’s office and request STD testing. People who would prefer not to visit their own doctor and those who may not be able to afford to test at a private physician’s office should contact the state health department for information on free and low-income clinics and non-profit organizations that offer free and affordable testing.
Who Should Get Tested
The short answer to the question of who should get tested is “virtually everyone over age 13.” A longer, more detailed answer is provided in the CDC’s testing guidelines:
- Everyone between ages 13 and 64 should be tested for HIV at least once
- Annual chlamydia screening is advised for all sexually active women under age 25 in addition to women over 25 who exhibit certain risk factors
- Annual gonorrhea screening is recommended for all sexually active women under 25 in addition to older women who exhibit certain risk factors
- All pregnant women are advised to be screened for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B; pregnant women who exhibit certain risk factors are recommended to be screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea in early pregnancy with repeat follow-up screenings to monitor and protect the mother and child’s health
- Men who engage in sexual activity with men are recommended to be screened at least once a year for syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia; men who have sex with men and exhibit certain risk factors are advised to be screened every three to six months
- Sexually active gay and bisexual men may find it advantageous to be screened for HIV every three to six months
- People who engage in an unsafe sexual activity or shares an intravenous needle is advised to be tested for HIV at least once a year
The CDC notes certain risk factors that may contribute to a person’s need for more frequent testing due to a greater potential for disease exposure. People who have multiple sex partners are usually encouraged to be tested more frequently as each partner presents a new risk for exposure to a disease. Having engaged in sexual activity with a partner who had a disease at the time or later found out they had a disease is another risk factor that may necessitate more frequent testing, especially if the person continues to engage in sexual activity with a partner who has an infection or who is being treated for one.
Types of STD Testing
There are many, many sexually-transmitted diseases for which a person may be tested. Therefore, people are often confused as to which tests they should ask for when visiting a private doctor’s office or clinic for testing. Healthcare service providers often test for only the most common STDs. In instances in which a clinic is offering an awareness campaign, testing may only focus on one specific disease such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). When going to a facility for testing, it is important for patients to know the diseases for which testing is available at the facility and to specify the diseases for which they would like to be tested. Tests can be performed in a variety of different ways, depending on the disease. Depending on the disease, a healthcare professional may perform a test by collecting a sample of blood or urine or by swabbing a sample of bodily fluid.
STD Panel Test
A series of STD tests are often referred to as a “panel.” This term is often misleading as it suggests that a person has been tested for every sexually-transmitted disease imaginable when, in fact, a panel may consist of any combination of various STD tests. For this reason, it is better to request specific STD tests by name as oftentimes, people may falsely assume that their healthcare provider’s STD panels include a particular disease for which they need to be tested. At a minimum, people who are sexually active people should ask their healthcare provider to regularly test them for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and in the case of female patients, cervical cancer. Most doctors do not screen for HPV and herpes; therefore, patients who wish to have a more complete picture of their STD status should be sure to ask for those tests specifically.
Misconceptions About STD Testing
Many people who are otherwise attentive to their healthcare needs do not make the effort to get tested for STDs because they mistakenly believe their sexual health is being tested and monitored in other ways. Women often assume a standard pap exam includes STD testing when many gynecologists do not conduct STD testing during a wellness exam unless the patient asks. Gynecologists are even less likely to automatically test patients who are over the age of 25. Patients also assume that if they are tested for one disease, the test would also detect signs of others. The results of a syphilis test only refer to syphilis; an HIV test only tests for HIV, and a chlamydia test will only tell a patient if he or she has chlamydia. If patients want to know whether they have a specific disease, the only way to know is to ask for the test that corresponds to that exact disease. Furthermore, patients who test positive for one disease should resist the temptation to decline further testing under the assumption that it is impossible to simultaneously have other diseases. Sexually active people should be tested for each of the most common sexually-transmitted diseases.
Misconceptions About HIV
Most people believe human immunovirus, or HIV, the disease that causes AIDS, is the only STD that can seriously impact a person’s life. This belief plays a large role in the spread of STDs. Due to the false assumption that other STDs do not seriously impact a person’s health, some people will get tested for HIV regularly and neglect to get tested for any other diseases. Others avoid testing altogether based on the fear that they may learn they have been infected. Both behaviors are hazardous to personal and public health. By continuing to engage in sexual activity without knowing whether he or she has a sexually transmitted disease, a person places others at risk of contracting the disease he or she may be spreading, whether it may be HIV or another STD. Moreover, HPV, syphilis, and gonorrhea may all cause serious health disorders such as cervical cancer, infertility, a compromised immune system, which may make a person more susceptible to contracting HIV, and even, in the case of syphilis, brain infection. Therefore, it is imperative that people get tested regularly for all of the most common STDs.
STD Testing in Las Vegas
There are multiple ways people of all income levels can receive regular STD testing in Las Vegas, disease treatment, and counseling. People who have a private doctor can simply schedule an appointment with their doctor to be tested or request STD testing when they schedule their annual checkup or at the time of another planned visit. Again, it is important to specifically ask for to be tested for each STD by name or to verify the tests the doctor’s medical practice offers. In some cases, a patient’s primary care physician may provide a referral to a gynecologist or to the lab that partners with the physician’s office to provide testing.
Low-Cost and Free STD Testing
People who are unable to afford health insurance or who simply may not wish to visit their personal care physician to receive STD testing may do so at any public health clinic or non-profit healthcare provider. Public clinics are generally owned or managed by larger public hospitals. Therefore, they typically offer services on a sliding scale that is based on the patient’s income and ability to afford medical services. It is always best to call prior to visiting to ask the receptionist how pricing works and what information, if any, the clinic will need the patient to bring to the appointment. Many clinics also offer drop-in STD testing. Again, it is important to call the clinic to determine what days free or sliding scale testing is available. Non-profit healthcare providers are registered charitable organizations that raise money to deliver affordable and free services to people who would otherwise struggle to afford health services.
Confidential STD Testing in Las Vegas
For people who believe they may have been exposed to a disease and those who feel embarrassed about asking for an STD test may, some healthcare providers offer confidential testing. This service is typically offered by community clinics that specialize in STD testing and are staffed with professionals who are specially trained to keep the patient’s identifying details private. Regular STD testing is a normal part of healthcare maintenance for sexually active people. Therefore, no one should feel embarrassed about requesting a screening. Nevertheless, some people may prefer not to share with their primary care physician their desire to be tested for STDs. The desire for extra privacy should not discourage anyone from being tested. Individuals who are concerned about preserving their privacy should call Las Vegas health clinics to inquire about confidential testing.
Some people avoid testing because they worry about what would happen if the test results were positive. In the event that a patient tests positive for an SUV, that person’s life does not automatically end; however, the matter is critical enough to warrant taking immediate medical action. If a person tests positive for HIV, he or she is usually scheduled to take a follow-up test and potential counseling prior to receiving referrals for ongoing treatment. Nowadays, treatments for viral infections like HIV and herpes are capable of suppressing the disease and allow the person to continue to live a normal life. If the patient tests positive for syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia, the doctor or clinic will advise the patient regarding treatment to heal the patient of the disease.