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STI 101 – Getting Tested

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

Today, we have a blog post written by a fierce advocate and friend of the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center, Aubree Moore, Nursing Supervisor with our local Virginia Department of Health. Aubree is an advocate for programs that support HIV prevention and treatment including PrEP and the VA Medication Assistance Program. We hope this will be the first installment in a series written by Aubree for the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center, on various topics associated with sexual health. We are grateful for her contribution and vital work in our community!


In this blog, Aubree talks through the steps of getting an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) test, in the hopes of demystifying and normalizing the testing process. She also includes a helpful list of frequently asked questions and where to find additional resources. Please check it out!

 

We all know that our sexual health is important, but the visit can still be unnerving (even for those of us who work in the field). Knowing what to expect at the visit can help shake those nerves and normalize the process. Below we will talk about the usual steps of getting an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) test:


When to get tested:


STI testing should be a routine part of your healthcare, just like getting your blood pressure checked or a having a yearly physical exam. Don’t wait until you notice symptoms. If you’re sexually active, get tested!


At your visit:


Sexual History: Your visit will begin with a thorough health history that focuses on your sexual and reproductive health. Although it may seem like a lot of questions, this information is very important because it helps the provider determine how to best care for you. Everyone who is sexually active should be tested for HIV, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia, but some will need additional testing depending on their risk factors.


Testing: Once you talk through your history with the provider, it will be time for testing. Testing will look different for everyone depending on the type of sex you have and the testing options available at your clinic. Below are some of the various ways you may be tested for routine STIs:


Chlamydia and Gonorrhea: Urine Sample, Vaginal Swab, Throat Swab, Rectal Swab


Syphilis: Blood Draw or Fingerstick Rapid Test


HIV: Brood Draw or Fingerstick Rapid Test


Hepatitis B: Blood Draw


Hepatitis C: Blood Draw or Fingerstick Rapid Test


Physical Exam: If you are not having symptoms, your visit will likely be “test and go” - which means you do not need an exam. If you are having symptoms, the provider may perform a pelvic and genital exam. The physical exam can help the provider diagnose your symptoms. It’s normal to feel uneasy about this part of your visit, but the provider is specially trained to make this process as quick and easy as possible.

*T/W- If a physical exam is a trauma trigger, let your healthcare provider know before the exam begins. We respect your needs and will work with you to make the exam safe. Deferring the exam until you are ready is also an option.


After your visit:


Results: Your results should be available within a week of the test. Depending on which clinic you visit, you may receive a phone call or be asked to return to the office to get your results.


Treatment: If any of your tests are positive, you will need to return to the clinic for treatment. All STIs are curable or treatable with the right medication.


Follow Up: You may need to follow up for further testing or treatment in the weeks and months after your initial visit. Your healthcare provider will tell you when your next visit is recommended based on your health and sexual history – typically testing is encouraged every 3-6 months.


That’s it - you’ve successfully navigated your Sexual Health screening! Thanks for keeping yourself and your partner(s) safe and healthy! To find local testing resources check out https://gettested.cdc.gov/.


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FAQs:


Can anyone find out my results?

No, your results are confidential. If you test positive, the health department can help notify your partner(s) and will protect your identity. No matter where you receive testing, the health department can help you with this.