How to Talk to Your Doctor about STDs
You probably think that STD screening is a part of your regular checkups with the healthcare provider, but this is not always the case. On the opposite, screening for sexually transmitted diseases is not part of the health care most of the time.
If you are educated about the sexual health and risk of STDs, you probably want to be proactive about it. To do this, you need to ask to get tested.
This is a highly recommended step for everyone, especially those who are taking a new sexual partner.
But, how does one go about getting tested? How do you ask your doctor to test you for STDs?
Why Should You Get Tested?
STDs are often very tricky and do not show symptoms until it is too late, which is why the best way to make sure you do not have an STD is by getting tested. Waiting for symptoms before you take this action is completely wrong since in most cases, people do not experience symptoms even after they are infected.
In addition to this, symptoms of STDs are usually non-specific, which means that you can experience symptoms caused by a variety of different infections. Moreover, these could even be symptoms of another disease, which would cause unnecessary stress and further problems if you were treated improperly.
You should get tested because this is the only way to get diagnosed and treated.
Which Tests Should You Ask for?
Sure, you can always ask for an STD panel when speaking to your doctor, but how will you know what is on that specific panel? For this reason, it is recommended to ask for more specific STD tests, especially if you think you are at risk of already being infected by a particular disease.
Generally speaking, there are several tests you could ask for:
1. Viral STDs Tests
- HIV screening
In HIV screening, the doctor may use blood tests or even test a swab with your oral fluid. This is a highly recommended test for everyone, especially those who engage in risky behavior or have more sexual partners.
- Herpes screening
Herpes screening is done differently for patients who have symptoms and those who do not. If you have symptoms, doctors may use a swab of your sores or diagnose you with a physical exam. Otherwise, herpes screening is done with blood tests.
- Hepatitis screening
Hepatitis is tested with blood tests. This infection requires series of different blood tests. In addition, people are advised to get a vaccine for hepatitis A and B.
- HPV screening
HPV screening usually comes alongside pap smear for women. For men, there is no standard HPV test, except in cases where they have anal sex.
2. Fungal and Bacterial Tests
- Syphilis testing
In most cases, syphilis is tested with the help of blood tests. It is highly recommended for high-risk groups and pregnant women. The high-risk groups include men who practice high-risk sex with other men, prison inmates, as well as patients diagnosed with another sexually transmitted disease.
The risk of false positives is huge in syphilis testing, which is why doctors limit the screening to those who experience symptoms of the disease.
- Chlamydia and Gonorrhea testing
These two STDs are the easiest to get tested for, which is why women are often screened for these infections automatically. The most common tests are a urine or swab test.
One important thing to pay attention to is the timing of your screening. Let your doctor know if you are getting screened right after a risky encounter, since new infections may take up to six months to show on the regular tests.
Going to the Doctor’s Office
Once you approach a doctor with a request for STD testing, they will start by asking you specific questions related to the most common risk factors. Once they get this information, they will test you for the conditions you are at risk for. Therefore, it is highly important to speak up and ask honest questions.
Ask to Be Tested
Many private doctors and public clinics to not use STD tests as a standard part of the yearly check-up. Therefore, always ask whether you are tested and if not, request screening for the most common sexually transmitted diseases.
Get More Information
Do not leave all the decisions to your doctor! Even if you asked to be tested or were informed about it, always get more information regarding the screening tests being performed. It is good to know which STD you got tested for to be able to ask for the additional tests you feel you need.
Do Not Be Nervous
This advice usually applies to women since after all, men are tested with blood tests and urine tests. Women do not have this privilege for the bacterial infections. They need to have a vaginal swab for many STDs, which is why many women hesitate and decide to avoid the screening.
Do not be nervous. A vaginal swab should not be uncomfortable for you.
What Should You Do if the Doctor Rejects Your Request?
If you approach a doctor with a request to be screened for STDs, they will probably accept it and make the tests. However, some doctors do not find screening to be important or simply reject such requests.
When this happens to you, you can:
- Insist on getting tested and inform the doctor why you want the STD screening
- Look for a different doctor
- Visit a doctor who is better informed about STDs and testing
- Use a good online testing service
The last option is very tricky. If you decide to pick an online testing service, do your research and look for a reliable one.
Being open and honest about the reasons why you want to be tested for STDs is the best thing you can do when visiting the doctor’s office. You may want to do this as part of your regular yearly checkup, or for more specific reasons such as unprotected sex or a change of sexual partner. Don’t forget – you make your sexual decisions. It is the job of the doctor to respect this and take care of your sexual health.