When you ask for STI test results, what are you asking for?
April 23, 2012 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Can the hive mind provide nuts-and-bolts info on STI testing with a new partner? What should be tested? What's the window for diseases manifesting after a previous encounter?

I have lots of questions about the details of STI testing when discussing potential sexytimes with a new partner.

1) What diseases should be tested for/should I ask to see the test results for? My understanding is that there's not a single comprehensive STI test or test battery, so what needs to be done to ensure the safety of myself and my partner?

2) Some diseases can be transmitted but not be picked up on an STI test for a period of time. How long should I insist between my/my new partner's last intimate encounter and the STI test, in order to not miss anything major?

3) What other health information is relevant in deciding on what STI tests to do? Should I be asking about HPV shots, specific sex practices that carry additional risk factors, drug use, or other things?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Are you a woman? These are questions that can be well-answered by your gynocologist, if so. The two of you could also make an appointment at Planned Parenthood together (or separately) and they will help answer all of your questions. Don't be afraid to ask about anything, they will help you out.
posted by brainmouse at 3:55 PM on April 23, 2012

What's the window for diseases manifesting after a previous encounter?

i was told 3 months, i.e., if you got something in the last 3 months the test won't detect it.

just make an appointment to get tested at your local planed parenthood or similar place. they'll tell you what tests to take.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:00 PM on April 23, 2012

1) Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV are IMHO the four most commonly tested for. HPV for women (there isn't a test for men), but I think this is normally done as part of an exam. Talk to your gynecologist. You can also test for herpes but only if you have active lesions.

2) Some rapid, oral HIV tests claim to detect the virus in as short of a window as 6 weeks after infection. I've heard 3 months before, but I've also heard 6 months. If you call the clinic you're going to go to then they can tell you what time period they recommend waiting (oral and blood tests will probably have different windows). I think HIV has the longest waiting period of the diseases most commonly tested.

3) I would just remind you that many diseases can be asymptomatic yet still contagious. I think it's like 50% of people with chlamydia don't even realize it. The HPV vaccine is nice, but it's not complete. There are many strains of HPV and the vaccine only covers a handful of them (the most common ones that can cause cancer, but not all). Yearly exams are still required.

I'd also ask about the Hepatitis A/B vaccine. It's a series of 3 shots done over 6 months (IIRC). If you're in college or in a situation where you're in close quarters with a lot of college students (sharing drinks, at the campus gym, etc) then it's also worth getting the meningitis vaccine.
posted by sbutler at 4:31 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am on my phone and can't easily link, but planned parenthood has a nice feature on their website called the check that lets you work through interactively and suggests some testing parameters.

Try this link.
posted by Forktine at 4:33 PM on April 23, 2012

They do not do default testing for HPV/HSV if you ask for it in a standard panel--they pretty much do the big four that sbutler mentioned. They won't test for those unless you come up with actual physical symptoms. You pretty much have to pester them or possibly go elsewhere to get a blood test (Western blot, I think?) to check for herpes if you don't have symptoms. There's a "ThinPap" test that I believe checks for HPV on ladies. Also, men absolutely can't be tested for HPV unless they've come down with warts on their bodies, so there's really no way to tell if a guy is clear for that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:52 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I forgot: with respect to the UTI infections (chlamydia, gonorrhea) there are two ways to test. I believe the most common is where you pee into a cup, but you should not do this less than an hour (maybe even two) after you last peed. Urinating flushes out the chemical signs the test looks for, so you have to wait an hour or two after your last urination before you pee in the cup. So to be on the safe side, don't pee in the two hours before you do the test.

The other way is a swab, which is uncomfortable, but I don't believe it requires the same 'wait to pee' time as the cup method.

Again, either way, your clinic can tell you which one they use and how long they want you to wait.
posted by sbutler at 5:04 PM on April 23, 2012

There are so many STI's and some of them pretty inconsequential.

The best thing anyone can do in this situation is go to Planned Parenthood. A lot of people think PP is just for women or just for family planning. But PP performs a variety of services with many constituencies. Unlike most GP's, these people know how to talk to you about sex, risk and STI's.

Go to them. They kick ass.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:09 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is a better, non-mobile link to the Planned Parenthood interactive site.
posted by Forktine at 5:11 PM on April 23, 2012

Folks: OP is male.
posted by jessamyn at 5:50 PM on April 23, 2012

3) I think you have gotten good answers for #1/2 but I will add more on #3.

As alluded to above, the HPV vaccine only covers a selection of the subtypes of HPV that are most likely to lead to cervical cancer. There are many other types. To pick up the warts, you essentially just have to look for them on the skin. To know if your partner has had HPV, you can get a clue by asking if they have ever had an abnormal Pap smear, because HPV is what causes abnormal Pap smears. But a lot of people just get the virus and then clear it from their system without any complications. If you want to have sex with people, you basically just have to be comfortable with a risk of contracting HPV, because there's really no foolproof way to avoid it. The prevalence of HPV in American women is estimated at just over 25%.

In terms of sex practices that put you at greater risk for STIs, having sex without condoms is the most common risky behavior. Anything that involves exchanging bodily fluids and rubbing mucous membranes is higher risk (so mutual masturbation, dry humping and such are safer). Anything that could potentially cause exposure to blood (like rough vaginal or anal sex causing tearing of the tissues) is higher risk.

IV drug use specifically puts people at higher risk for blood borne infections: HIV, hepatitis B and particularly hepatitis C. You can only be immunized against hepatitis B, there is no vaccine (yet) for HIV or hep C. Particularly if you want to have sex with an IV drug user, I would recommend giving a longer time period (more like 6 months or more) from the last time they used IV drugs or had sex with someone (I would never trust that the needles used were clean - but then again I'd probably never be having sex with an IV drug abuser). This is specifically related to the 'window period' for HIV testing and so it's a very conservative estimate, since HIV is incurable and can kill you. If you have other Qs feel free to Memail me.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:14 PM on April 23, 2012

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