For many people, sexually-transmitted disease testing is a topic they would rather avoid instead of confronting head-on. There are several misconceptions about STDs that lead to a general reluctance to get tested. Some people mistakenly believe STDs are uncommon among the general population. Others are afraid to find out whether they have a disease and try to ignore the possibility until they develop symptoms. Still others are under the impression that all STDs cause visible symptoms and that they are disease-free as long as they do not experience symptoms of an illness. Nevertheless, these reasons contribute to a growing issue of sexually-active people not knowing their health status inadvertently contributing to a rising STD infection rate in San Diego and across the country.
Increasing STD Infection Rate in San Diego
Since 2015, STD infection rates have been on the rise in San Diego. The local increase is part of an ongoing trend across the U.S. Even more astoundingly, the number of annual STD infections reported nationally reached a new record high in 2017 with more than two million cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia reported; the previous record was approximately 200,000 more than the number of cases reported in 2016. This startling increase in sexually-transmitted disease infections comes after years of controlling STD infection rates. The U.S. currently reports the highest rate of STD cases among all industrialized countries. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is technically the most common STD that affects men and women. The virus is considered incurable, though the body is able to resolve some strains of HPV on its own. Other strains cause genital warts and cervical cancer. Some strains have no symptoms at all. At one point, it was estimated that as much as three-quarters of the sexually active population had been infected with HPV.
Getting tested for STDs is more than a personal decision. People who choose to be sexually active have a responsibility to their partners to disclose any sexually-transmitted diseases they have. When people avoid having regular STD screenings, they potentially expose their unknowing partners to disease. Furthermore, avoiding getting tested allows a potential disease to worsen and cause more severe health consequences when early detection and treatment might otherwise allow the person to avoid a worsening condition.
Therefore, it is within every sexually active person’s interest to be regularly tested to allow for early detection and treatment and to prevent the spread of STDs to potential sex partners. STDcheck.com offers affordable STD testing at local labs in San Diego.
Most Common STDs
There are many sexually-transmitted infections for which a person may be tested. Unfortunately, healthcare practitioners do not always test patients for all of the most common STDs. Therefore, patients must request specific STD tests by name. STDCheck offers testing for all the most common STDs. When requesting STD testing, there are certain diseases for which every sexually active adult should be screened.
The disease that has the highest infection rate is Chlamydia. In 2017, 1.7 chlamydia infections were reported. The disease affects women’s cervix and the penile urethra in men. Symptoms include pain during sex and discharges. However, one of the reasons the infection rate for chlamydia is so high is because some patients do not experience the symptoms of an infection. Therefore, it is possible to have chlamydia for a period of time without knowing unless a test is performed.
Gonorrhea is another common bacterial infection. This disease affects the same areas as chlamydia and is characterized in men by burning when urinating and a white, green, or yellow discharge. Also similar to gonorrhea, it is possible for a person to have gonorrhea and to be symptom-free; therefore, testing is imperative.
Another common sexually-transmitted disease, syphilis is transmitted through sores caused by the disease. The sores usually appear around the mouth, external area of the genitals, vagina, or rectum. Sores may appear on areas that are not necessarily covered by a condom; therefore, using a condom does not totally prevent the spread of syphilis, but can minimize contact with affected areas. Although the sores that appear early in the disease may heal quickly, the infection remains in the body unless detected and properly treated.
Mycoplasma Genitallium, Trichomoniasis, and HPV
A lesser-known STD, Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) surpassed infection rates for gonorrhea among adolescents. The disease is also now an increasingly common cause of irritation of the cervix in women and in the urethra in men. MG can also be asymptomatic; therefore, until more advanced testing technology emerged, detecting the disease has been more difficult in the past. MG is also believed to cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. Trichomoniasis is the most common curable STD that has a higher infection rate in women than in men. Women may mistake trichomoniasis for a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. Frothy discharge, strong odor, itching, irritation, and pain during sex are the most common symptoms. Although men are capable of contracting trichomoniasis, they usually do not exhibit symptoms. People who wish to be screened for less common STDs may do so at a local STDCheck lab.
HIV and AIDS
In the 1980s, when the first HIV and AIDS cases became publicized, the entire country shifted toward an atmosphere of fear surrounding the transmission of STDs. From East to West, communities were suffering substantial losses due to AIDS-related deaths. Eventually, the knowledge and fear of HIV and AIDS spread around the world and led to a greater focus on developing medication to help people live with HIV infection. On the prevention side of the equation, the focus was placed on educating people about how HIV could be spread through the transmission of bodily fluid during sexual activity. AIDS awareness campaigns also focused on the importance of testing to curb the spread of HIV to others and the necessity of taking prevention measures when engaging in sexual activity. After this nationwide concerted effort to reduce the spread of HIV, infection rates dropped substantially.
However, years later, the HIV infection rates are once again increasing in major cities as people have once again adopted a lax attitude toward testing. STDCheck offers HIV testing to help keep the San Diego community safe.
Where to Get Tested in San Diego
STD testing is accessible to people of all economic backgrounds. Those who have health insurance and a primary care physician may simply request STD testing as part of their annual checkup or at any other time. For people who would prefer not to have their primary care physician or family doctor perform STD tests on them, an STDCheck lab or a public or non-profit clinic may be a more preferable option. Clinics are often also a more affordable option for people who have low or no income and, therefore, cannot afford to pay for medical testing. Public clinics are usually run by the larger city, county, and state-run hospitals; therefore, they are more likely to offer services at prices that are based on a sliding income scale or completely free of charge. Non-profit clinics are registered charitable organizations that specialize in providing health services. These clinics also offer sliding scale and free STD testing.
Getting the Right Tests
Another misconception that contributes to the high disease infection rate is the belief that doctors automatically run all the tests a patient may need. Healthcare facilities often offer multiple tests as a package and refer to the tests as an STD test panel. The term “panel” lends itself to the interpretation that all of the most appropriate tests are included. In reality, a panel is simply whatever grouping of tests a particular hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic may offer. Therefore, patients must specifically ask to be tested for each of the diseases for which they would like to be screened. Currently, there is no individual test that is capable of screening for all STDs. Therefore, healthcare professionals collect blood, urine, and/or discharge and use those samples to run multiple tests for different diseases.
Asking for Testing Separately
Some people who regularly visit their doctor for annual checkups mistakenly assume that STD testing is included with regular blood tests and women’s exams. Many doctors do not run STD tests unless the patient asks. Therefore, a patient should not assume that STD testing was included as part of a pap exam or blood panel, unless otherwise specified. Patients may ask to include STD testing in their annual exam. Depending on how the medical practice works, the doctor may be able to perform the tests onsite, or the patient may be referred to a testing lab that works with the doctor’s office.
Confidential STD Testing in San Diego
Fear of disclosure is a major fear that drive some people’s reluctance to be tested for STDs. They may share a physician with a spouse or other family members and have concerns that other people will find out they requested to be tested. Patients should be aware of their rights and know that their healthcare practitioners are not permitted to share confidential information with unauthorized people, including other family members, unless the patient has consented. In addition to medical privacy laws, people should also feel more at ease requesting STD tests because doing so is a logical part of health maintenance and disease prevention for people who are sexually active. For those who are still hesitant to be tested due to fear or embarrassment, some health clinics offer confidential testing. These clinics are staffed by workers who are trained to conceal patients’ identifying information while conducting the tests and delivering the results. If the patient tests positive, he or she may receive a phone call at his or her telephone number of choice, or the clinic may ask if they can mail the results in a disguised envelope.
Most sexually active adults are recommended to be tested for gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and HIV at least once a year. There are certain risk factors that may trigger a more frequent need for testing. Men who engage in sexual intercourse with men may benefit from being tested for HIV every three to six months. Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia in early pregnancy with follow-up testing if the woman has recently had multiple sex partners. In general, people who have multiple sex partners are encouraged to be tested every three to six months. Current testing guidelines only provide a partial view of a person’s sexual health. Requesting screening for herpes, trichomoniasis, mg, and other diseases can provide a greater sense of peace of mind and a more comprehensive approach to prevention and early detection.
By All Means, Get Tested
Every person who is sexually active should get tested. In most cases, sexually-transmitted diseases can be treated and cured. If a person tests positive for a disease that does not currently have a known cure, medical personnel are able to provide all the necessary counseling support the person needs for his or her emotional well-being in addition to treatment therapies that allow people who have incurable STDs to live largely normal, long, otherwise healthy lives. Early detection and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases is a public health matter. When each person takes accountability and remains aware of the state of his or her own health, San Diego’s communities are able to remain healthier and safer for everyone. Anyone who is sexually active and has not been tested for all of the most common STDs should visit STDCheck.com or the state health department to take the first step toward taking charge of his or her sexual health.