What's going to happen when I go get tested for a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) or HIV?
First of all, congratulations for taking care of your health and the health of your sexual partner by getting tested. Give yourself a hand -- not that kinda hand (we have a separate blog for that topic). Okay, there are several ways to get tested for HIV/AIDS. There is a blood test, but most likely your first test will be the Rapid HIV Test. This test is a swab in the mouth then shows the results in 20 minutes. They are working on an at-home test, but we always think it is best to go to the professionals for the most accurate results. Either test reveals whether or not your body is producing HIV antibodies. If the result is negative, a follow-up test is suggested within six months or when you have a new sexual partner.
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) has a similar Rapid Test, that will give the results in 20 minutes. Except the HCV test pricks the finger and draws a small sample of blood in order to get results.
For infections like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea the test is either a swab of the genital area or a urine sample. Trichomoniasis is tested with a swab of the genital area as well. This can mean for males there may be a testing Q-tip inserted into the urethra in order to obtain a sample to be tested. Just a fair warning.
Syphilis is tested through a blood sample. Herpes can be tested through a blood sample as well if there are no signs of genital warts. This test is expensive though and usually not part of standard STI testing routine. If there are visible warts, a swab is taken of the area in order to test whether or not it is a herpes of HPV genital warts strain.
When testing for HPV, the type that causes cervical cancer within women, a Pap Smear is preformed by your gynecologist. A pap smear is a swab of the cervix. It can be slightly uncomfortable, but it is quick. Pap tests detect cervical cell changes, NOT HPV. If there are abnormal cells in the results, that is usually a result of an HPV infection. An HPV DNA test and biopsy (colposcopy) can be done as a follow-up routine.
It seems like a lot, and slightly intimidated, but this is for your sexual health and your partners.
It is best to get tested either every six months, after every change of a partner, or if unprotected sex has occurred.