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What Happens at an STD Center?

An STD center is a clinic that specializes in testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In some places, the STD center might offer a range of tests for free. A person attending the clinic might have to provide a urine sample, and a doctor or nurse usually will take genital swabs or even blood samples.

Anybody who has been sexually active can go to an STD center for testing. Some centers accept drop-in appointments, and some require patients to book an appointment in advance. The clinic might offer a wide range of tests to patients as a matter of routine, but in some centers, a patient might have to ask for a specific test. For example, a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) blood test might not be routine for all patients.

A person attending an STD center typically will have all of his or her information kept confidential. The nurse or doctor needs to ask each person questions about his or her sexual history, partners and condom or drug use. The person also can discuss any symptoms he or she has and whether an infection is present.

Common routine tests include tests for the bacterial diseases chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Women might also get routinely tested for trichomoniasis, yeast infections and general bacterial infections of the vagina. Clinics cannot easily screen for the herpes virus, so screening for this infection is not routine in most cases.

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The clinic takes swabs from the inside of the cervix in women and from the urethra inside the penis in men. These swabs are then sent to a microbiology lab to be analyzed. The center generally takes urine samples, which also are sent to the lab for analysis.

An STD center doctor or nurse will perform a visual examination as well as taking samples. A visual examination can show issues such as yeast infections in men and women, pubic lice or scabies. It also can help diagnose genital warts, the viral skin infection Molluscum contagiosum and other general genital infections. If an infection is present, the doctor might also take scrapings from sores. The doctor also might perform a touch examination of the genital region and, for women, an internal examination.

For women, the clinic might also offer pap smears. A pap smear involves scraping a sample of cells from inside the cervix to test for cervical cancer or cells that could potentially turn into cancer. The sexually transmitted disease human papilloma virus (HPV), which infects both men and women, can cause this cancer in women. In some countries, women older than 30 might be offered a pap smear along with a test for HPV DNA.

Sometimes a patient might need a blood test as well as the other tests. This is necessary if the patient might have HIV, syphilis or infectious hepatitis. Some clinics also offer vaccinations against hepatitis or other diseases as a preventative measure.

In some countries, a visit to an STD center and the tests are free. STD centers sometimes provide extensive advice about contraception or potential pregnancy. The clinic often can provide people who have STDs with treatment and can give out prescription medication to patients.

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