A sexually transmitted disease (STD) is a disease that is mainly transmitted by sexual contact, such as oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse. Often the term sexually transmitted infection (STI) is used instead of STD, because a person can be infected with an STD even if they have no disease symptoms. An STD clinic specializes in testing for STIs. The specific STIs tested for can vary from one STD clinic to another, but commonly available tests include those for HIV, hepatitis B and C, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, genital herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause genital warts and cervical cancer. Depending on the diseases one is tested for, an STI checkup can involve the collection of urine samples, blood tests, and swabs of the genital area, meaning a test sample is obtained by wiping the skin and mucous membranes.
An STD clinic can offer tests for many different STIs, but can also offer different tests for the same disease. For example, there are various tests available for HIV and hepatitis. Some of these tests can be used successfully within hours or days of sexual contact with someone one suspects of being infected. Other tests cannot give accurate results until several weeks after the suspected transmission of infection.
Blood tests are commonly used at an STD clinic to test for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis. To test for chlamydia, men usually provide a urine sample, while a swab of the vagina is used for women. Swabbing is often done to test for gonorrhea and genital herpes in both men and women. A visual exam can be performed to check for genital warts, a symptom of HPV infection. For women, a Pap smear involving a gynecological exam to swab and superficially scrape the cervix can also be used to test for HPV.
STI symptoms vary depending on the disease, but common symptoms include sores, warts or ulcers in the genital area, discharge from the penis or vagina, and in some cases fever and stomach pains. One should consult a doctor and get tested for STIs, either at an STD clinic or other medical facility, if experiencing such symptoms. Results from the tests done at an STD clinic are sometimes available within minutes or hours, but more commonly within several days or a week. Sometimes the test results can be given over the phone or by mail. In other cases, commonly involving HIV tests, the STD clinic can require a return visit to obtain the results.