Sexually transmitted diseases, also called sexually transmitted infections, are spread through sexual contact. Because most of these infections do not immediately cause symptoms, it is important for sexually active people to have screening done regularly, to treat any STIs before complications occur or they are spread to others. Untreated STIs can have adverse effects on the entire body, and put you at a higher risk for contracting HIV.
It is important to remember that STI screening is not usually a fundamental part of regular medical checkups. The patient must inquire about testing; most doctors do not automatically suggest it unless symptoms are present. Various STIs have different screening schedules, so talk to your doctor about your sexual history and current sexual activity to decide which diseases you should be screened for.
Many STIs can be detected with a urinalysis or a cotton swab. Some infections, including HIV, hepatitis, and syphilis, are diagnosed with a blood test. Pap tests, also called Pap smears, are performed at a gynecologist's office during a woman's yearly exam. This test can check for HPV, but doing so isn’t routine, so you should ask your doctor if you would like to have an HPV test at this time.
If a test is positive, appropriate treatment measures should be taken. Current and former sex partners should be notified so that they can receive testing as well.
Concerned that you may have symptoms of an STI? Contact your OB/GYN immediately to schedule testing, and catch the infection now.