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Getting Tested with My Partner

Feb 14, 1997

Rick, my partner and I would like to be tested for any sort of STD before having intercourse. Is there a blood test that can be done, to determine if either of us has an STD? Do they have to do a specific test for each possible STD, or can they do a test for all STD's? Thank you for your help with this matter.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

When you get tested for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's), there is a different test for each disease. Different STD's are diagnosed in different ways.

Some STD's are diagnosed by blood tests. These include HIV, Syphilis, and Hepatitis B, (among others). Some STD's are diagnosed by "swab" tests, where a swab is used to take a sample, and then that sample is tested for certain STD's. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are tested in this way. Some STD's are diagnosed by visual inspection, including Genital Warts and Herpes. However, various lab tests (like biopsies) can be done to confirm a diagnosis of these diseases. STD's such as pubic lice and scabies can also be diagnosed by visual inspection.

There are many more STD's, but the thing to keep in mind is that there is a separate test for each STD. Some tests are blood tests, some are swab tests, some are biopsies or other tests, and some are diagnosed by visual inspection. The key is to be tested for both HIV and other STD's before having unprotected sex with your partner. This way you and your partner will be aware of an infection before transmission occurs. Also keep in mind that tests will not always pick up an infection, if the person was recently infected with an STD. Some tests can take a month or so to show positive (Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis are examples). Some diseases can take up to 6 months to show positive (like HIV). So just because a person doesn't show positive on a test, does not necessarily mean they are disease free. This is why learning about your partners previous (and present) sexual history with other partners, and when they had sex with them, is so important. It's also important to learn their drug history (IV drugs, alcohol, and other drugs affecting judgment). All of this information gives you an indication of your partner's potential risk of infection.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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