Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, cover a wide range of conditions, some relatively mild and others much more dangerous. However, all of them must be addressed promptly. The one thing that many STDs have in common is the absence of symptoms, at least in the early stages of infection. So if you are sexually active and have had unprotected—or even protected—sex with one or more partners, you must be checked for the full range of STDs to ensure that you are disease-free and will pose no threat to your sexual partners.
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Testing for STDs
Because there are so many STDs, there is no single test that can confirm that you are free of sexually transmitted infections. Testing procedures include blood tests, urinalysis and physical examination of your genitals and/or anus. Tests also include taking samples of tissue, cells, saliva and abnormal discharges for microscopic inspection. Almost none of these tests is done with a routine physical, so if you are concerned about the possibility of an STD, you must ask your doctor to authorize the necessary tests.
Included in the overall category of STDs are the following diseases and disorders: HIV/AIDS, chancroid, chlamydia, cytomegalovirus (CMV), genital warts, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, herpes, human papilloma virus (HPV), intestinal parasites, molluscum contagiosum, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), pubic lice, scabies, syphilis and trichomoniasis.
Cost of Testing
The cost of STD tests varies widely and depends to a large extent on what, if any, insurance coverage you have and where you have the testing done. If you are fortunate enough to have comprehensive health insurance, you will probably pay only a small copayment, if anything, for each test. For the uninsured, STD testing through your family doctor can be quite expensive, ranging from about $50 to $200 per test. For those who seek absolute anonymity and don’t care to discuss such matters with the family doctor, there are private testing companies, but their services don’t come cheap, and few, if any, accept health insurance. These private firms usually charge $50 to $150 per test, but some offer testing packages that cover between seven and ten different STDs and are priced at $300 to $400.
Free and Discounted Testing
If you really want to get tested and don’t have insurance or the money to pay for these tests out of pocket, check out local health clinics, many of which offer free or sharply discounted testing. College students can often obtain free or low-cost STD tests through their college infirmary. Both Planned Parenthood and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer referral services to help you locate a low-cost testing center. To obtain a CDC referral to a testing center near you, call the agency at (800) 232-4636; Planned Parenthood offers an online health center locator that can be accessed on the association’s homepage at http://www.plannedparenthood.org/.