FREQUENTLY ASKED TESTING QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS:
What is an STI?
STIs are infections caused by a virus or bacteria that affect the reproductive organs. For up to date information on how to prevent STIs and to receive comprehensive information about the most common STIs (including transmission, diagnois and treatment) go to the National Planned Parenthood site or the Minnesota Planned Parenthood site.
How can I tell if I have an STI?
Many people are concerned only when suspicious symptoms appear, but it is not always obvious. Many STIs cue asymptomatic or episodic, meaning they are not noticeable or cannot be detected immediately. The person who has contracted the infection can spread it during the incubation period when no symptoms are present.
When should I decide to get tested?
If you have had unprotected sex, had a condom break, found out a partner is infected, or want to know your own status for the sake of respect for yourself and others. Testing prior to having sex with a new partner is recommended, but may not always be realistic.
You can request an STI examinaticn during your regular physical exam; most healthcare providers offer testing as part of their services, but will not automatically perform the tests unless you ask.
STIs have an 'incubation period', which means they may not show up in tests immediately; incubation period is different for every infection, so check with your SWA or one of the resources listed on this website for specifics.
What is done during an STI check?
A typical STI screening for Chlamydia and gonorrhea and trichomoniasis involves collection of a fluid sample from the cervix, urethra, throat or Dr lesion with a swab, which can be done during a regular health exam. Some clinics now provide urine tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea; it is recommended that men do not urinate for 3-4 hours before their test and women do not urinate 1 hour before the test.
Syphilis is detected with a STS blood test (serologic test for syphilis). Testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes simplex virus requires a physical examination of visible lesions. A pap smear for women may detect HPV tissue but the actual purpose of this procedure is to test for cervical cancer.
HIV and hepatitis B are generally detected through a blood test (see below for one HIV testing options).
Be aware that these tests are often offered individually, and that “STI screenings” may not test for HIV, hepatitis, or syphilis. Ask what you are being tested for!
What happens when I test positive for an STI?
All STIs are treatable. Many of them are even completely curable. The first category involves micro-organismal infections, which include Chlamydia, thrichomonas, gonorrhea, and syphilis-these infections can be cured with antibiotic treatment. The second category involves viral STIs including infections such as herpes, HPV, hepatitis B, and HIV. The symptoms of viral infections can be treated and more or less controlled with anti-viral medications, but they can stlil be sexually transmitted if the person infected does not practice safe sex.
You may not have been prepared for a positive test result, but realize that there is treatment out there, that there is counseling available, and that there is a community to support you. With this knowledge, you can modify your own behavior and protect others.
How soon can I get tested for HIV antibodies?
The tests commonly used to detect HIV actually look for antibodies produced by your body to fight HIV. Most people will develop detectable antibodies within 3 months after infection. In rare cases, it can take 6-12 months. It is recommended to wait to test until after a 3-month window period, but tests may still be inconclusive up to 6 months after exposure. During the time between exposure and the test it is important to avoid any behavior that might result in exposure of blood, semen, or vaginal secretions.
What kinds of HIV tests are offered?
Most HIV tests involve drawing a sample of blood, which is then tested for HIV antibody presence. The standard enzyme immune assay test produces results in 1-2 weeks.
A rapid HIV test is a finger-prick blood test that produces results in about 10-20 minutes. These blood tests are 99.9% accurate. The most common version in the OraQuick©. At-home testing is also available and as accurate as clinical testing, but tends to cost more.
Urine and oral-fluid HIV tests offer alternatives for anyone reluctant to have blood drawn. Orasure© is currently the only FDA approved oral-fluid test, where fluid is collected from inside the mouth with a simple brushing motion. This test is 99.8% accurate. You should not eat, drink, or brush your teeth for at least 2 hours prior to testing.
What is the difference between confidential and anonymous testing?
Anonymous antibody testing services are those which no name is give. Only the person getting tested can reveal his/her results to anyone.
Confidential antibody testing services record the person’s name with the test result. Records are kept secret from everyone except medical personnel or, or in some states like Minnesota, the state health department*. Individuals should ask who will know the results and how the record will be stored. If the HIV antibody test is confidential, a release form can be signed to have the test results sent to the individual’s physician for treatment referral.
*information is sent to health departments in order to provide help with partner notification and care referrals, as well as provide the federal government with epidemiological statistics.
If you are unable to find answers to your questions on this website, please feel free to contact AHA!