STD testing is what detects a sexually transmitted bacteria, virus, or parasite. Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting an STD and should be tested regularly. Doctors recommend routine STD testing every year. It is also recommended to get a screening whenever there is a new partner. It is smart to get screened if you think your partner has been unfaithful as well.

But what exactly is an STD? Short for sexually transmitted disease, it is an infection that is commonly passed during sexual contact. STD testing that is completed at a physician’s office or a lab is what tells a person if they have been infected or not.

Common STD’s include chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis A, B, & C, herpes 1 & 2, HIV, HPV (genital warts), pubic lice (crabs), syphilis, Trichomoniasis, and vaginitis. Some of these are bacteria, some are viruses, and others are parasites. Let’s discuss the difference.

Bacteria are infections that are generally cured with a specific kind of antibiotic. Antibiotics are medications that kill the bacteria in the body. They require a prescription that is prescribed by a doctor. Sexually transmitted bacteria include gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. These bacteria are easy to cure with the right antibiotics. If they are not treated, they may lead to major health problems.

Viruses are infections that are often treated with a prescription antiviral medicine. A viral infection cannot be killed with antibiotic medication. The body is able to kill certain viral infections naturally but others can live in the body forever. Antiviral medication suppresses a virus and prevents it from rapidly multiplying in the body. Many people that use antiviral medicines are able to lead an active, normal, and healthy lifestyle. Viruses that can be transmitted during sexual contact include hepatitis, herpes, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and HPV (human papilloma virus). Antiviral medicine is available to treat many of these infections. If left untreated, they may cause serious health complications. Doctors and researchers are continuously working on new medications to suppress and/or cure these infections.

Parasites are small or microscopic bugs that live in or on the body. Some of them are transmitted through sexual activity. Medication is available to treat these types of parasites. Common parasitic STD’s include pubic lice (often called “crabs”), intestinal parasites, scabies, and Trichomoniasis. A doctor can run a test to detect these parasites. Most times they are cured with over-the-counter or prescription medication. It is important to be properly diagnosed by a physician and treated quickly.

Vaginitis, a condition that often affects many females of all ages, can be sexually transmitted. It is can be caused by bacteria, a virus, or a parasite. Vaginitis that is caused by sexually transmitted bacteria is often called bacterial Vaginosis. Vaginitis can also be caused by non-sexual factors such as chemicals, perfume, soap, or poor hygiene. It must be properly treated to avoid complications. Treatment depends on the type of vaginitis that is diagnosed and is determined by a physician.

All of these infections are quite common and can spread very quickly. The only way to know if a person has a sexually transmitted infection is with an FDA approved STD testing.

Simple STD testing with a small sample of urine or blood can easily detect common bacteria and viruses that are transmitted between people during sexual activity. It is important that people get STD testing regularly. Certain untreated STD’s can lead to serious health complications including cancer, infertility, and death.

Some STD’s may cause symptoms right away. Others may appear to have no symptoms at all until it is too late to treat them. Regular STD testing allows people to learn their STD status and get fast treatment. The right treatment can stop the spread of many STD’s. It may also keep partners from infecting or re-infecting each other.

Many females think that getting a routine Pap test is all that is needed when it comes to their sexual health. This is not true. A Pap test only screens for cancerous or pre-cancerous cells in the cervix (usually caused by HPV). It does not screen for other common sexually transmitted infections. A complete lab-based STD testing is important so females will know if they have a sexually transmitted disease.

Sometimes males are afraid to get their STD testing done. They think it may require a painful procedure like getting a tube inserted in the penis. However, the STD testing that doctors often recommend does not require this procedure at all. The only thing that is required is a small urine or blood sample, depending on the test.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that millions of people are infected with a sexually transmitted infection each year. They also report that contracting one STD increases the risk of contracting another one. Getting regular and routine STD testing is recommended in order to help to stop many of these diseases from being spread.

No matter what age, gender, race, or sexual preference a person has, STD testing is important. If you are sexually active, you can get an STD. Abstinence (not engaging in any sexual activity at all) is the only way to avoid this risk. Sexually transmitted infections may be cured or controlled, but first they must be properly detected.