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STI Testing

Getting Tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Do you know your status? Everyone should have an HIV test at least once in their lifetime, and we offer rapid testing for HIV and hepatitis C in a judgement-free environment. In addition to HIV and hepatitis C testing, you and your provider can work together to determine your need for routine STI testing or for one-time testing should you have concerns or symptoms. We can also provide recommendations and treatment.

Please see our page on outreach for more information on our services as well as sites where we may be holding mobile-testing events.

Southwest Care Center prides itself on its highly developed and internationally recognized care of people living with HIV and/or hep C. Our roots began with specialty care services for people with these diseases, and we continue to have the most advanced care available in these areas, offering patients the opportunity to cure their hep C.

We also have expert knowledge in Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for the prevention of HIV transmission and participate in medical research and clinical trials for many diseases including HIV, hep C and others. STIs are a health issue that has long been a focus for Southwest Care Center, and we are happy to help you better address this common health issue.

We are committed to making STI testing and treatment available to everyone. To tap into our medical expertise and caring response to STI testing and treatment please call 505.988.8869

What to Expect at Your SCC visit for STI testing

A visit to have a STI test is very common, and we do them every day. That being said, we know a visit to the doctor can come with some anxiety or at least some questions about what a patient can expect during their visits. We want you to be as comfortable as possible while you are a guest at our clinics.

When you come to a Southwest Care Center clinic, you will be asked to fill out some paperwork. This can be time consuming but is necessary for us to have the information we need to best serve you. We are very successful at keeping our wait times short and rank in the top 95% of other medical clinics on this measure.

Once it is time for your visit, a nurse or medical assistant will call you back to one of our exam rooms. The nurse or medical assistant will ask you questions, record information, and check your vitals. Once your provider comes to see you, he or she will discuss your risks and concerns for STI’s and work with you to determine which tests are most appropriate.

Important Information about STI Testing

If you are sexually active, especially if you have multiple partners, using protection and getting tested for sexually transmitted infections is critically important because you may have an STI and not even realize it. In many cases, there aren’t any signs or symptoms. This is why most medical professionals are moving toward the term “sexually transmitted infection” over “sexually transmitted disease,” because you can have an infection without presenting signs of the disease.

This presents multiple dangers. If you don’t know that you have an STI, you are more likely to spread it to others. Additionally, just because there are no outward signs and symptoms doesn’t mean that the STI is not affecting your body. Certain STIs can affect your reproductive health, leading to a loss of reproductive capability (mainly in women), while other STIs are known to contribute to the formation of certain cancers.

The type of STI testing you need, as well as how often should you be screened, depends on factors such as your age, sexual behaviors and other risk factors. If you think you need STI testing, talk to your Southwest Care Center physician about your concerns and what tests you’d like or need.

If you think you need STI testing, call Southwest Care Center to make an appointment today at 505.988.8869

What Are Some Common Signs and Symptoms to Watch Out For?

The symptoms of an STI can come and go over time, but that doesn’t mean the infection is gone. It’s also common for the symptoms to be so mild that you don’t even notice them. However, if you do notice something that feels off (pain, burning sensation, sores, etc.), mention it to your doctor.

Various STIs present different symptoms. Some general symptoms associated with STIs include:

  • Bumps or sores on or around your genitals, thighs, or buttocks
  • Unusual discharge (fluid) coming from your penis or vagina
  • Painful burning sensation when you urinate, having to urinate too often
  • Pain, itching, irritation and/or swelling of the penis, vagina, or anus

While all of the symptoms listed above may be the result of things other than STIs (such as pimples, urinary tract infection (UTI) or yeast infection), the only definitive way to know is to get tested. It’s important to talk with your Southwest Care Center physician about what kind of sex you’ve had, as well as what forms of protection you are using (i.e., condoms, dental dams, etc.). Your physician can then help you determine what types of testing are best for you.

Though the idea of getting tested can be scary to some, it’s important to remember that most STIs can be easily managed or even cured with medication, and the sooner you know, the lower your chances of spreading the infection to others or experiencing complications as a result of the infection.

Testing for specific STIs

Southwest Care Center recommends annual screening if:

  • You are a sexually active woman under the age of 25.
  • You are a woman older than 25 and at higher risk for contracting an STI.
  • You are a man who has (anal) sex with men.
  • You have HIV.
  • You have been forced to engage in sexual activity against your will.

HIV, Syphilis and Hepatitis (A, B, C). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages all adolescents and adults between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested at least once. The organization also recommends that anyone with a heightened risk of infection for HIV, syphilis or hepatitis get tested annually. A small blood sample is usually all that’s required to test for these three diseases.

The CDC also recommends hepatitis C screening for all people born between 1945 and 1965 (a.k.a., baby boomers). This group has a particularly high incidence of hepatitis C, and the disease often presents no symptoms until it reaches the advanced stage and the liver is damaged beyond its ability to heal. Vaccines are available for both hepatitis A and B if screening shows you haven’t been exposed to these viruses.

Your doctor can test you for syphilis either by taking a blood sample or a swab from any genital sores you might have. Samples taken at Southwest Care Center will then be sent to a lab to be analyzed for the presence of infection. Request testing for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis if:

  • You test positive for another STI (which puts you at greater risk of other STIs).
  • You have had more than one sexual partner (or if your partner has had multiple partners) since your last test.
  • You use intravenous (IV) drugs.
  • You are a man who has sex with men.
  • You are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant.
  • You have been forced to engage in sexual activity against your will.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea. Screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea is either done with a urine test or via a swab inside the penis (men) or cervix (women). Samples taken at Southwest Care Center will then be sent to a lab to be analyzed for the presence of infection.

Genital herpes. Unfortunately, there isn’t a reliable screening procedure for herpes at this time. Your Southwest Care physician may choose to take a tissue scraping or a culture from blisters or ulcers for examination in a lab, but a negative test result can’t rule out herpes as the cause of any genital ulcerations.

Blood testing may reveal if you’ve had a herpes infection in the past, but results aren’t always conclusive. If you have any suspicious sores, rash or other unusual condition on your genitals, be sure to bring it up with your doctor and he or she will talk with you about possible testing options.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Estimates of the number of people living with HPV in the United States put the number at approximately 79 million people (that’s almost a quarter of the U.S. population), with another 14 million new cases reported each year. The main reason the number of people with HPV is so high is that many people never develop any symptoms. A person with a healthy immune system can also clear the virus from their bodies within two years.

Unfortunately, certain types of HPV can cause genital warts, while other types have been shown to cause cervical cancer in women. Studies have also linked HPV infection to other cancers, such as cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and mouth and throat. There are immunizations to protect both men and women from some types of HPV, but they are most effective when administered before any sexual activity begins. Pap testing, which checks the cervix for any abnormal cells, is important for women between the ages of 21 and 65. If the test shows the presence of any abnormal cells, you will be tested for HPV. Additionally, women over 30 may be offered HPV testing along with their Pap test every five years if previous tests were normal.

For men, there is no routine diagnostic screening test. Your doctor will diagnose HPV by visual inspection or through biopsy of genital warts.

Dealing with Positive Test Results

If you test positive for an STI at Southwest Care Center, we will always have a physician or physician’s assistant call you to let you know and discuss your treatment options right away. Your partner(s) also need to be tested and treated, as some infections can be passed back and forth. You should also inform any past sexual partners and advise them to get tested as well.

It’s not uncommon for patients with a positive test result to go through a range of emotions, including shame, anger and fear. As such, Southwest Care Center does offer short-term counseling for those who test positive for STIs.

If you believe like we do, that medicine must be personalized, based on trust, affordable and available when you need it, please call and make an appointment by calling 505.988.8869