General Information on STDs and STD Testing

As their name says, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) refer to illnesses that are usually transmitted through sexual contact. Some of these diseases can also be picked up in other ways – like through infected needles or unsanitary towels, while some children may inherit them from their mothers. The diseases usually evolve from sexually transmitted infections. It is not always the case that an infected person displays symptoms, but in most of the cases an infected person does spread the infection. Only proper STD testing can confirm if a person has an S.TD or not

STD TestingGenerally speaking, not all illnesses that can be transmitted through sexual contact are classified as STDs. It is accepted that the term STD refers to illnesses that are primarily transmitted through intercourse – for example, meningitis, although possibly transmissible this way, is not considered an STD for the simple reason that this happens in a very small number of cases. It is generally assumed that an STD is an illness that may be transmissible in ways other than sexually, but in most cases it is likely that it was contracted through sexual contact.

STDs can be categorized based on the cause of the illness:

  • Bacterial STDs are caused through the transmittal of a bacteria. These include Chlamydia, Chancroid, Gonorrhea, Syphilis or Granuloma inguinale.
  • Fungal STDs refer to diseases that are caused by fungi, like Tinea Cruris or Candidiasis.
  • Viral STDs are caused by viruses and are the most notorious category, including HIV, Viral hepatitis (B or C), Herpes (oral or genital), HPV or Molluscum contagiosum.
  • Parasites like Scabies and Crab louse.
  • Protozoal STDs like Trichomniasis.

Primarily, STDs are being transmitted through the exchange of saliva, venereal fluids, skin or mucosal contact; however, sweat, urine and feces can also transmit such infections. While some diseases are more easily transmissible than others, most of them are contagious enough to make it highly likely to get infected in the case of having unprotected sex with an infected person. Although in most cases penetrative sex is the most contagious option, diseases can also be transmitted through oral sex; sometimes direct skin contact is sufficient to get an STD.

In cases such as herpes, the infection becomes much more contagious once it has developed in a disease – since the blisters ease the body fluid exchange. However, illnesses like HIV and HPV are just as likely to be transmissible, whether or not the infection has evolved.

While the risk of infection can never be entirely eliminated, when having intercourse with an infected person, it is strongly diminished if safe sex is practiced (mainly through the use of condoms). However, since skin contact and exchange of other body fluids (like saliva) is quite likely through intercourse (not to mention the occasional condom break cases), the condom is still not a fool proof method.

Because of the use of needles, drug users and medical workers are occasionally considered at high risk of contracting the diseases (through ways other than sexually) and they are recommended to get tested on a regular basis. Moreover, extreme caution needs to be performed in the case of blood transfusions.

STD Prevention and STD Testing

  •  Practicing safe sex and using condoms is generally considered to be the safest way to make sure STDs are not contracted. Sexual education is essential in teaching the importance of safe sex and of proper use of condoms. However, beware that even in the case of properly used condoms, the only areas that are protected are the ones that are covered by the condom – which means that if infected areas or fluids reach outside the condom, the infection may still be transmitted
  • It is statistically proven that the more sexual partners you have, the more likely you are to contract an STD – especially in the case of random intercourse. One can avoid contracting an STD if one pays special attention to the people they get involved with. The existence of a long, stable relationship may diminish the chance of being infected.
  • Many of the STDs can be prevented through vaccination – such as the case of all the hepatitis viruses, herpes and some HPV types
  • A recent theory states that Nonoxynol-9 may be used to prevent STDs.  The substance is usually included in contraceptives, due to spermicidal properties. However, this theory has yet to be scientifically proven.

Diagnosing an STD

STDsSince it is often the case that an infection may be prezent in your body without actually showing symptoms, regular check-ups (especially in the case of an active sexual life that does not include a stable partner) and going for STD testing are very important in preventing and diagnosing STDs. As is in the case of many other illnesses, STDs have a higher curing chance if caught early. Unfortunately, since there is no procedure that is capable of detecting all possible STDs, one needs to either test for all of them regularly or pay special attention to all possible symptoms, to know what to test for.

Even in the case of asymptomatic infections, the lack of treatment may in a long time lead to effects like severe chronic pain, infertility and death.

Since, in the case of most STDs, tests do not detect the illness immediately after it has been contracted, it is recommended to continue with the testing even in the case of a break in sexual activity.

If you suspect that you might have an STD, you should visit a physician or STD testing clinic immediately.  In all likelihood, there are several STD Test Clinics in your area. Some clinics even offer low-cost or free testing, based on income.  And if the thought of visiting an STD Test Clinic is scary and potentially embarrassing, there are also STD home test kits available for purchase. Do make sure to use a reputable provider.  You can call one of our STD counselors for more information on STD testing.

STD Testing Statistics

STDs are commonly spread and continue to be highly contagious, despite continuous investments in sexual education and safe sex promotion.  That’s why more STD testing facilities are popping up, especially in urban populated areas so that resources are available to those in need of STD testing.

While underdeveloped countries have a considerably higher infection rate, STDs continue to cause numerous infections in the entire world. It is estimated that 340 million new cases of chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis occured in 1999 (1 in 20 people in the world was newly infected with one of these diseases), with a considerable proportion of those happening in the African countries and Southeast Asia.

In developing countries, STDs are in the top five most contracted diseases and, even excluding HIV,  are the second most likely cause of disease and death. The sad part is that, in most cases, prevention and early diagnosis of STDs through STD testing are easy processes and not at all expensive, but they do not occur due to ignorance and negligence.