Essential STD testing: Key to health and prevention

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections transmitted through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal or oral sex. They can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites, and may lead to a range of symptoms and health complications if left untreated.

The number of reported STDs in the United States has consistently risen every year since 2014. More than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in 2021, a 5.8% increase over the previous year. It’s estimated that one of every two sexually active people will test positive for at least one of the most common STIs before they are 25. 

While some groups are disproportionately affected (people under 25, racial and ethnic minority groups and gay or bisexual men), STDs can impact anyone if the proper actions for prevention and treatment aren’t taken. 

STDs aren’t new. However, their rising rates emphasize the need for more conversations about the importance of STD testing, as well as prevention and appropriate treatment. 

Why is STD testing important?

Early detection of STDs can prevent further transmission to sexual partners, thereby reducing the overall spread of infections within the community. Furthermore, any STDs, if left untreated, can lead to serious health complications such as infertility, chronic pain, and in some cases, even death. 

Regular testing allows people to seek timely medical intervention, improving the odds of successful treatment and minimizing long-term health risks. But only about 12% of young people do it, even though STIs are on the upswing. 

Additionally, STD testing helps to destigmatize these conditions by promoting open communication about sexual health and encouraging responsible sexual behavior. After all, STDs can affect anyone — and it’s crucial to understand how to prevent an STD and handle a diagnosis. 

Prioritizing STD testing not only safeguards our health on a personal level but also contributes to the collective well-being of society. By curbing the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections, we can improve overall public health. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes the importance of STD testing. They recommend annual STD testing for anyone who is sexually active and not in a monogamous relationship. More frequent testing is recommended for people with multiple or anonymous partners. 

Guidelines for what types of tests you need are based on demographic and risk profiles. One overarching CDC recommendation is that everyone ages 13 to 64 be tested at least once for HIV, and men who have sex with men should be tested every year.

It’s important to make sure tests come from a reliable provider. People are often surprised that they don’t need to find a specialty center for testing. Our urgent care providers are experienced at administering reliable tests in a welcoming and affordable setting.

Understanding STD treatment options

Whether you actively have an STD or want to be prepared should the situation arise, understanding treatment options is essential. 

Depending on the specific infection, STD treatment options may involve antibiotics, antiviral medications or antifungal drugs. Some STDs, like HIV, require lifelong management, including antiretroviral therapy. 

If you think you have an STD, it’s critical to seek medical care right away to receive a proper diagnosis and begin the appropriate treatment. Doing so helps prevent further spread of infection and reduces the risk of experiencing complications. 

Infections such as chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea can and should be fully treated before resuming sexual activity. Some viral infections, including HPV, HSV-1, HSV-2 and HIV, can be managed to reduce the risk of spread. If you test positive for an STI/STD, our urgent care providers are skilled in discussing treatment options and how to talk to your partner.

In addition to prescribed medication, healthcare providers may recommend lifestyle changes to support treatment and prevent further problems. For example, it may make sense to abstain from sexual activity during treatment and use barrier methods like condoms consistently. It’s also responsible to notify your sexual partners of your diagnosis so they can undergo testing and treatment as well. 

Education about treatment options is meant to empower you to take control of your sexual health and make informed decisions to protect yourself and your partners. Regular follow-up appointments and adherence to prescribed treatment plans are essential.

You can visit any of our urgent care centers to discretely discuss STD testing and treatment options depending on your personal needs. We’re prepared to help with urgent care STD treatment.

How to prevent an STD

STD prevention involves a combination of strategies to help reduce the risk of transmission. 

One method is the consistent and correct use of barrier contraception, such as condoms, during sexual activity. Condoms act as a physical barrier, preventing the exchange of bodily fluids that can transmit STDs like HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. 

Regular STD testing and mutual monogamy (limiting the number of sexual partners) can also lower the likelihood of exposure to STDs. 

Certain STDs also have vaccines to help prevent them. For example, vaccines are available for viruses such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B, which can cause cervical cancer and liver disease, respectively. 

HPV vaccination, in particular, is recommended for teens and young adults up to age 26. 

However, while vaccines provide significant protection against specific STDs, they don’t protect against all types, nor should they be relied upon as the only preventive option. The same thing goes for barrier contraception. 

Combine multiple measures with regular testing to reduce risk. Have an open conversation with your provider about your sexual activity to learn about options for vaccines and barrier contraception. 

How to prevent STD after exposure

It can feel overwhelming to try and navigate the next steps after learning of an STD exposure. Is there anything you can do to help prevent transmission at this point? Yes, but it’s important to act fast. 

If you’ve engaged in unprotected sex, especially with a partner of unknown STD status, emergency contraception (the "morning-after" pill) can help reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy. This pill prevents ovulation or fertilization and should be taken as soon as possible (within five days). For higher-risk categories, doctors may recommend an antibiotic called doxycycline.

Anyone who has had unprotected sex, including a broken condom, should get tested for STDs one to two weeks after sex and again in 90 days. Early detection allows for timely treatment. 

Finally, practicing safer sex is always smart. This involves consistent condom use and regular testing. Being proactive following unprotected sex or receiving a positive STD test is necessary for individual well-being and public health.

The takeaway

STDs can impact anyone. Understanding proper prevention habits and the importance of seeking early treatment is essential. We believe protecting and improving sexual health is an important part of helping our patients live happy, healthy lives. 

You can visit any of our centers to talk to a provider about sexual wellness. We’re equipped to provide the education, screening, and treatment options needed to reduce the burden of STDs on personal and public health. 


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  2. Reported STDs reach all-time high for 6th consecutive year. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed 13 April 2021. Available: 
  3. Cuffe KM, Newton-Levinson A, Gift TL, McFarlane M, Leichliter JS. Sexually Transmitted Infection Testing Among Adolescents and Young Adults in the United States. J Adolesc Health. 2016;58(5):512-519. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.01.002
  4. Screening Recommendations and Considerations Referenced in Treatment Guidelines and Original Sources. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed 6 June 2022. Available: 
  5. How You Can Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed 22 Feb 2023. Available: 
  6. HPV Vaccination Recommendations. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed 16 Nov 2021. Available: 

Written By Sarah The bargePhysician Assistant on March 19th, 2024