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Published On: Thu, Aug 31st, 2017

STD testing: why you should test yourself now

You have probably heard numerous warnings about unprotected sex, having multiple sex partners and using sex toys of unknown sources. Everyone has, at least once, become overtaken by pleasure and forgotten these warnings and points of advice. You have probably breathed a sigh of relief when you notice no itching, discharge or redness showing up in your nether regions.

Who should test for STDs?

Getting STD screening done from a professional lab can be unhealthy for your finances or involve a lot of trouble (travelling). You need STD and STI tests at least every six months. If you fulfill any of the following criteria, you need to test yourself for sexually transmitted diseases –

  1. You are a woman under the age of 25, with a sexually active life.
  2. You are older than 25 and at risk of getting STI. The risk increases with a new partner or multiple partners.
  3. You are a man who has sexual relationships with men.
  4. You have been coerced into sexual activity against your will.
  5. You have STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia.
  6. You use intravenous drugs.
  7. You need blood transfusions or have had one in recent times.

Image/CDC

A few STD tests you should do immediately

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): The CDC recommends HIV testing at least once a year for all citizens who are between 15 and 65 years old. HIV testing is not cheap. It may be done via the ELISA technique, Western Blot, or RNA methods. If you are not subsidized, the cost of a HIV test can burn a hole in your pocket.

As a simpler alternative, you can find at home STD test kits for sale online. However, you need to be careful about their accuracy and reliability. Is it a reputable brand? Different countries require different certifications for sale e.g. FDA in USA, CE in Europe and USAID for South Africa. Mail-in kits are a fast way of detecting the presence of viruses that can cause sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C at home. The so-called “rapid test” technology can give you results within 15 minutes. This saves a lot of time, effort and money.

Hepatitis C (HCV): If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you should test yourself for Hepatitis C at least once in your lifetime. Hep C often has no symptoms until advanced stages.

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV): Herpes testing is difficult. Current tests for herpes are not accurate and testing is not recommended. PCR is gradually becoming popular for HSV screening. However, distinguishing between the serotypes is still difficult. Controlling herpes is very challenging since it often presents no symptoms in carrier individuals. They are quite opportunistic and show up as warts, ulcers, and blisters in people with a weaker immune system.

Type 1 HSV, also known as “oral herpes”, commonly causes cold sores. These are mouth ulcerations. Type 1 Herpes is very common – about 50% of the world population has it, so it is not a cause for concern. It is usually transmitted by kissing. Type 2 HSV, known as “genital herpes”, more likely causes genital ulcers, and is often transmitted through oral sex or penetrative sex.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV): HPV can cause genital warts and in severe cases, cervical cancer. Pap smears are often helpful for the detection of HPV infection. If you are a woman above the age of 16 who is sexually active, ask your gynecologist for HPV vaccination options.

“No symptoms mean no STD”? This is the most common misconception about STDs which most of us hold dear. But the truth is, every sexually active person is at risk of getting STD, especially if they have multiple sex partners. Therefore, every time you are at your gynecologist’s chamber, make sure your doctor gives you tests for specific STDs.

Author bio: Austin Munn is a virologist. He has been working towards standardizing at home STD test kits. He thinks STD testing should be made available to all citizens at pocket-friendly prices and with proper privacy.

HIV image/CDC

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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