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Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise continuously and are tougher to deal with because of their silent nature. Majority of such infections do not produce symptoms until they reach a very advanced stage which may prove fatal. Therefore, a regular screening to keep a check on these is recommended to tackle them at the earliest.

Who should get tested?

Not everyone requires STI testing. You should get yourself checked if you:

  • Have multiple sex partners
  • Had unprotected sex
  • Got yourself injected recently
  • Got yourself pierced/tattooed recently
  • Had anal/oral sex
  • Are planning to have sex with a new partner
  • Are homosexual
  • Are you planning to get married or start a new relationship?
  • Have certain symptoms such as abnormal discharge from vagins/penis, burning or bleeding from genitals, painful sex, eruptions or rash in the genitals, etc.

How to get tested?

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The most common sexually transmitted infections include:

  • HIV,
  • syphilis,
  • gonorrhea,
  • Chlamydia,
  • hepatitis,
  • herpes
  • trichomoniasis

The most common method of testing them is by means of a blood or urine test. However, the test may vary with the type of infection as well as the risk factors involved.

Swabs are generally, taken to collect samples from the vagina, penis, throat, urethra or rectum to detect Chlamydia or gonorrhea contracted during oral or anal sex. HIV, genital herpes, syphilis, and trichomoniasis can also, be detected by a swab test.

When to get tested?

There is an average incubation period i.e. the time taken for symptoms to develop after exposure to the infection, which varies from one STI to another. Therefore, it is important to know when the infection has grown enough to be detected by the tests.

  • Chlamydia: Mainly asymptomatic, the infection takes 1-3 weeks to develop significantly. Regular screening is recommended as no symptoms make it a tougher infection to treat and can lead to complications.
  • Gonorrhea: A very notorious disease, Gonorrhea can take 2 days to 1 month to produce symptoms.
  • Syphilis: The average time taken by the characteristic syphilis chancre to develop is about 21 days of infection exposure. However, the period may range from 10 to 90 days.
  • Chancroid: The chancroid lesion can appear anywhere between 1 day to several weeks after infection, with most people noticing it within 5-7 days.
  • Trichomoniasis: While men usually, do not experience any symptom of trichomoniasis, women may have some symptoms from 5 to 28 days of exposure.
  • Scabies: First attack of scabies takes about 1-2 months to show symptoms. However, in case of recurrent infection, the symptoms may show as early as 2 days.
  • Genital Warts: Genital warts can be observed within 3 months of infection.
  • Genital Herpes: Also symptom-less most of the time, some people do show some symptoms within 2 weeks of exposure to the virus. Other general symptoms of viral infection such as fever and flu might also be present simultaneously.
  • HIV: The most deadly of all STIs, HIV is equally difficult to detect. Not only can it stay silent in the body for years, but the HIV antibodies can be hard to track. Some patient test positive within 3 months while some may take upto 6 months for the confirmation of diagnosis. Though some people may experience flu-like symptoms approximately two weeks after exposure to infection, the inability to recognize the symptoms might delay the diagnosis. Therefore, it is always better to get yourself tested, if you have been exposed to an infection source. A test taken immediately or even 1 week after exposure will be negative and thus, not a reliable indicator of the disease status. Take repetitive HIV tests at 2 weeks, 3 months and 6 months of suspected exposure to the virus to be sure of the result. Tests that look directly for HIV RNA, the virus’ genetic material, can detect an infection earlier, but are harder to find.
  • Hepatitis B: 4 to 6 weeks is the usual time taken by symptoms of hepatitis B to appear and the disease is completely preventable by vaccination.
  • Molluscum Contagiosum: The incubation period of molluscum contagiosum is still uncertain, and is estimated to be from 2 weeks to 6 months.

Condoms offer the best protection against STIs, annual check-ups and tests are advisable to keep an eye on them.

Have safe sex. Be aware of any symptoms that may be developing.     

Get yourself tested periodically- Key to a happy and successful relationship!!

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