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Sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, are common in the U.S. and can affect male fertility. It’s important to undergo STI testing and STI screening to receive appropriate treatment, avoid spreading them to others and to help find causes of male-factor infertility. The three main types of STI testing are blood testing, urine testing, and testing via a genital swab. In some cases, a lumbar puncture may also be used. We look into how STI testing works, who should be tested, and which common STIs are tested during screening.
STIs are infections that are usually transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. These infections are common, with one in five people in the U.S. having one in 2018. The numbers of some STIs increased in 2020, with gonorrhea cases growing by 45% since 2016 and syphilis cases increasing by 52%.
STIs are often referred to as STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases. While some organizations differentiate between them, defining STIs as transmissible infections and STDs as the diseases that may develop from an infection, agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use both terms interchangeably. STI testing, STD testing, and STI screening refer to the same tests.
There are three main tests used to detect STIs, along with a less commonly used method. The STI testing and STI screening you receive will depend on the type of infection your doctor thinks you may have.
Blood tests can be used to detect syphilis, HIV, herpes, and hepatitis. A blood sample will be taken from your arm and sent to a lab. The test looks for proteins and antibodies in the blood that are present when you have certain infections.
Urine tests can be used to detect chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. You’ll pee into a sterile cup, which will then be sent to a lab for analysis. A high white blood cell count in the urine indicates the presence of an infection. Urine testing can also diagnose STIs like gonorrhea by using nucleic acid amplification tests to detect specific genetic materials and identify the infection.
Genital swabs involve taking samples from the infected area, such as the vagina or cervix in women or the penis or urethra in men. These samples can be used to detect human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes by either performing a genetic test on the swab or using the sample to grow bacteria and identify the infection.
Also known as a spinal tap, lumbar punctures are not often used for STI testing and STI screening. Your doctor may order one if they think you have an advanced stage of syphilis or herpes. The test involves analyzing fluid drawn from your lower spine to look for the infection.
These tests will most often be used to detect the following common STIs:
In general, you should consider STI testing if you notice STI symptoms, or if you’re:
Groups at higher risk should be tested periodically following current STI screening recommendations.
STIs often cause no symptoms, so it’s important to follow recommendations for regular STI screening depending on your age and risk level, even if you have no signs of a disease.
You’ll also want to undergo STI testing and STI screening if you have the following symptoms:
These symptoms may be caused by conditions, so it’s important to undergo STI testing and screening to make sure you don’t have an STI.
According to Planned Parenthood, STI testing costs can range anywhere from nothing to $250. Health insurance often covers STI testing and STI screening, and some health centers provide free or affordable testing.
Home STI testing kits, like the one offered by Legacy, cost around $150.
You can check for STIs on your own with Legacy’s at-home STI testing kit. The $150 STI testing kit provides STI testing for males and delivers results in just 48 hours. It tests for six STIs:
Whether you’re planning to freeze your sperm or want to be sure you’re not exposing your partner to an STI, the STI testing kit is easy to use and can quickly provide you with a diagnosis or peace of mind.
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