With over 20 million sexually transmitted disease (STD) diagnoses being made every year by providers, it’s accurate to say that you and your doctor should have a conversation about getting tested.
There are a variety of reasons why people get tested, from being in a new relationship to wanting to become pregnant. But people can also be lulled into thinking it’s not necessary for them for just as many reasons, whether it’s that they believe they’re in a monogamous relationship so testing isn’t needed or that STDs aren’t a concern because they’re not experiencing any symptoms.
Dr. Gurprit Sekhon is a strong proponent of discussing STD testing and conducting testing at your wellness exam, or if you find yourself experiencing any symptoms that align with an STD.
Timely treatment is important when it comes to STDs, because an untreated STD can lead to serious complications, such as cervical cancer in the case of HPV (human papillomavirus) or infertility if a woman is diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease as a result of chlamydia or gonorrhea.
The importance of STD testing: the numbers are staggering
We noted the high number of STDs diagnosed annually, but let’s break it down a bit and look at diagnosis statistics for some of the most frequently diagnosed STDs:
- Nearly 3 million cases of the most common STD, chlamydia, are diagnosed each year
- It’s thought that about 14 million HPV diagnoses occur each year
- Over 677,700 cases of gonorrhea were diagnosed in 2020
Some STD diagnoses have risen dramatically in the last decade. Gonorrhea and chlamydia cases jumped between 2020 and 2021 in particular, but they pale in comparison to syphilis case numbers. This is due to to the fact that syphilis figures include both sexually transmitted and congenital cases (when babies are born with syphilis), and because even though most states and Washington, DC, require at minimum one syphilis screening for pregnant women, it can only be done if a woman receives prenatal care. This statistic indicates that many aren’t.
Additionally, STD diagnoses rose startlingly during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely due to routine care getting delayed.
A combination of insufficient public health funding that results in less testing and treatment, reduced condom use by high school students who are sexually active, and the explosion of the methamphetamine and opioid epidemic have fueled the increase in overall STD cases.
Other common STDs Dr. Sekhon tests for and treats are genital herpes, HIV, and trichomoniasis. Many STDs are bacterial and quite easy to treat with antibiotics, while some are not curable but can be treated, such as HIV. In the case of HPV, we have the HPV vaccine, which is advised for boys and girls at about age 11 or 12.
Common STD symptoms
You should suspect an STD if you experience any of these uncomfortable symptoms:
- Pain when urinating
- Genital itching or pain
- Genital sores
- Penile or vaginal discharge
- Pain while having sex
The bedeviling thing about STDs, however, is that some symptoms can mimic a virus like the flu, including fever and fatigue, and, often, you may not notice any symptoms at all.
How do I determine whether I should be tested for STDs?
If you’re sexually active, whether with one partner or more, you should be tested for STDs. Even if you practice safe sex and use condoms, you’re at risk. The only way you can’t contract an STD is to abstain completely from any type of sexual activity.
The good news is that STD testing isn’t uncomfortable or complicated and is typically performed using a swab, blood test, or urine test. We have our own lab here in the office, so tests don’t need to be sent away.
Dr. Sekhon counsels you on how frequently you should get tested for STDs, depending on your gender, age, whether you’re sexually active, and how many partners you have. She may advise annual testing for some STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, while routine HPV testing for women is important since it’s responsible for over 90% of cervical cancer cases. It’s usually accompanied by a Pap test.
Dr. Sekhon weighs a range of risk factors when it comes to determining when a patient should be tested for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis C. Genital herpes testing is usually advised for people who are at high risk or symptomatic.
What if my STD test shows positive results?
If you’re diagnosed with an STD, Dr. Sekhon creates a treatment plan for you. Depending on your diagnosis, she may prescribe antibiotics or draw up a medication plan for viral disease management, such as with HIV genital herpes. She also discusses testing and treatment for your partner. Any testing done at Nu Wave Medical Center is completely confidential.
Dr. Sekhon and the Nu Wave Medical Center team are committed to your sexual wellness, as well as your overall health. Call our office today at 850-493-6948 to make an appointment with us, or use our online booking tool.