Every year more than 20 million people in the United States are newly infected with an STD1. STDs or STIs (sexual transmitted diseases or infections) are diseases spread through sexual contact such as vaginal, anal and oral sex. Though it is extremely important for a sexually active adult to schedule a routine screening, it is even more so for women to get tested regularly. There are two reasons why women, in general, should be more concerned about their sexual health. Firstly, STDs tend to be more severe in women than men and can lead to infertility, organ damage, cancer and death if it goes untreated for an extended period2. Moreover, some women do not experience or show symptoms of certain STDs when infected, hence the need for routine screening. Secondly, there is a higher chance of infection from receptive sex than that of penetrative sex for certain STDs (e.g. HIV). What this means is, women and gay men are more susceptible to certain STDs than straight men as the person receiving in both vaginal and anal sex is at a greater risk of infection. The importance of routine screening cannot be stressed enough because this not only protects you but also protects your partner/s from possible infection. For more information on STD and counseling options in Manhattan, visit 67th Street OB/GYN Total Women’s Health Care today.
Who should get tested?
All sexual activity adults should maintain a regular screening schedule. For those that are at a higher risk of being infected (e.g. drug users and those with multiple partners), you should speak to your doctor and create a schedule based on your sexual activities. Also, it is recommended that you get tested before and after every relationship. It also heavily stressed that pregnant women are extensively screened for STDs and HIV during routine prenatal care3. This is because the risk of infecting an unborn child with diseases such as HIV can be greatly mitigated if detected on time. Furthermore, some STDs such as syphilis results in infant death about 40% of the time if left untreated. You should immediately get tested if your past / present partner informs you that they have tested positive for an STD. If you test negative, you should still schedule at least one more STD screening because some STDs such as HIV have window periods of about 3-6 months3. During this window period, the disease is undetectable during screening, but can still be spread through sexual contact. Another important fact to note is that those living with HIV are also 3 to 5 times more likely to infect others with HIV through sexual contact if they have another STD than those individuals who are infected with HIV alone4. Hence, constant testing for other STDs in HIV positive individuals who are sexually active is even more important not just for themselves alone but also for the sake of their partners.
Though total abstinence and safe life choices (e.g. not sharing needles) is the only way you can ensure zero percent chance of infection, there are many ways to greatly mitigate your risk of infection. Below are a list of ways to mitigate risk factors
- Maintain a monogamous relationship with a faithful partner
- Reduce the number of sexual partners
- Always condoms correctly
- Use internal condoms (Female condoms) correctly; you should note that male condoms are not to be used together with internal condoms5
- The use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has been should to reduce the risk of HIV infection
- Limit alcohol and drug intake before and during sex
What to expect during your first gynecology STD counseling and testing
If you suspect that you might have an STD, it is always important to seek counseling before and after your tests (depending on the results). This prepares you for the eventuality that you receive a positive STD test. During your visit, your doctor would ask questions regarding your sexuality proclivity and partners. It is important to always be honest as this allows them to better recommend a screening schedule for you. After this, blood and urine samples would be collected followed by a physical and pelvic examination to screen for genital warts and other STDs. Your Doctor may also order a Pap smear to check for abnormal cells associated with the HPV infection.
If you believe you might have been infected with an STD, schedule an appointment immediately to speak with a counselor and one of our OB/GYNs in Manhattan today.