Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise and have been for the last six years. In 2019, doctors in the United States reported 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, some of which affect newborns who contract them during vaginal delivery.
Our compassionate and discreet OB/GYN, Sharon Smith, MD, at OBGYN Care in Houston, Texas, advises regular STD screenings for all sexually active females. Adding an STD screening to your annual well-woman exam ensures that we catch infections as early as possible so we can manage or even cure them.
Do you need an STD screening? And if so, how often should you get one? We provide some answers below.
Every woman between the ages of 13 and 65 who’s ever had sexual intercourse should be tested at least once for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. Even younger teens and tweens may need to be tested if they were exposed to a high-risk individual or were raped or molested.
If you’re at high risk for HIV infection, you should be tested more frequently. High risk individuals are those who:
We also test you for HIV/AIDs if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant. HIV-positive women can pass the infection to their infants during vaginal childbirth. If you’re at high risk, you should also be regularly tested for syphilis and hepatitis.
Anyone born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested at least once for hepatitis C, a virus that attacks the liver and that is highly prevalent in this age group. Hepatitis C often has no symptoms until the disease has advanced.
You can get a vaccine for hepatitis A and B, as long as you’ve never been exposed to those viruses.
If you’re sexually active and under age 25, you should be screened every year for chlamydia and gonorrhea. You should also get an annual screening if you’re older than 25 but are at high risk for STDs because you’ve had sex with a new partner or you have multiple partners.
Women who are HIV positive should be screened each year for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Women and girls who’ve been raped or molested should also be screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
With treatment, we can usually cure these infections.
Some STDs can be passed back and forth between partners even without sexual intercourse or any kind of penetration, including digital (i.e., fingers). Both human papilloma virus (HPV) and the herpes virus can be transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact, including fingering and oral sex.
HPV infection is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Dr. Smith offers vaccines against HPV for women and girls aged 11-45. An HPV vaccine may protect you from certain cancers, including cervical cancer.
We don’t usually screen for herpes, because the blood test tends to be inconclusive. But if you have physical symptoms of herpes, such as blisters or sores around your vagina or anus, we take a scraping to test for the virus. If it’s positive, a blood test can differentiate the type of herpes you have.
Many women with STDs have no symptoms. That’s why you should include annual screenings in your well-woman exam. And contact us if you notice any unusual symptoms, such as foul-smelling or thick vaginal discharge, or sores, rashes, or itchiness in your vulvar or anal areas.
Stay safe and healthy with regular STD screening. Contact our Houston office today by phone or online form to request an appointment.