For sexually active teens, it is important to practice safe sex with the use of condoms and birth control. Part of practicing safe sex is also knowing the importance of getting routinely screened for Sexually Transmitted Diseases and infections.
General STD testing by a doctor will usually only involve testing for high-risk types of STDs like genital herpes and the human papillomavirus, which will affect one in four women. Sexually active teenage girls are recommended to get routine STD testing at a yearly pap smear exam with a gynecologist or physician. Regular STD testing for Chlamydia is also important since it is another one of the most common STDs out there. The rules are different for teenage males, however. Routine STD testing for men is not necessary unless there is a frequent change in sexual partners or if the sex is with another male. For teenage males having teen sex with other males, it is important to get screened regularly for HIV/AIDS, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea. AIDS and syphilis can be life-threatening if left untreated, and chlamydia and gonorrhea can increase sexually active teens’ chances of acquiring more serious STDs like HIV and syphilis.
Types of STD testing:
- Clinical Exam. Sometimes a doctor may misdiagnose STD symptoms for an unrelated issue if they don’t know what they are looking for. Clinical exams to specifically diagnose potential STD symptoms are important.
- Viral Culture. These STD tests can only be performed on an open sore. They give a false negative about 50% percent of the time, yet are still considered the most effective form of STD testing.
- Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR test). This is another form of STD testing that can only be done on an open sore or someone with active viral shedding present. However, it is more sensitive than a viral culture and can be obtained through your doctor.
- Blood test (Type and Non-type specific testing). Blood testing is one of the most common forms of STD testing because a person can be tested for an Sexually Transmitted Disease even if they aren’t showing symptoms yet.
Where to get tested:
- At home. While these STD tests are not the most effective, they may be able to give some answers and can be done anonymously.
- In a hospital by a family physician, doctor, gynecologist or other specialist.
- Clinics like Planned Parenthood and other local offices might be able to offer STD testing for free or at a discounted price.
- College campus health centers also may offer discounted or free STD testing for its students.
What to know before you get tested:
- If you feel like you are exhibiting any of the signs or symptoms of an Sexually Transmitted Disease, you must tell your doctor to test you for that specific STD. Not all STD tests are created alike.
- Teen abstinence is truly the only way to protect yourself from getting exposed to an STD
- Forms of the birth control patch for women do not protect against the risks of STDs.
- Much like the case with pregnancy, STDs can still be transferred from person to person even if it is your first time having sex.
- It is also essential for any sexually active teen to understand that it is imperative to let other sexual partners know if you think you might have an STD. Frequent testing for all parties might help stop the spread of STDs.
- STD testing for teens having sex under the age of 18, may not always be available anonymously. The laws vary from state to state. In some states, the doctor is legally obligated to tell the teen’s parents about the results of the STD test. Check with your physician before seeking the STD test to find out more. However many Planned Parenthood’s and other private clinics try to keep most STD testing and other teen sex issues like pregnancy confidential even from parents. Check with your local Planned Parenthood for more information on its rules and policies.
Even if you think you don’t have an STD, keep in mind that many forms of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) don’t show any visible signs for weeks or month and sometimes even years. Sexually active teens should remember that it is better to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to STD testing.
Sources: herpesonline.org, mayoclinic.com