It can be challenging to motivate individuals to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), however this fear must be weighed against the possible complications of untreated STIs which can result if patients refuse to get tested.
Sometimes, people are scared to get tested because of how it may affect their relationship.
Others are fearful of being diagnosed with HIV or other severe STDs. Others still assume that they are “clear” since they don’t have any symptoms.
All these responses, while understandable, put you at higher risk than you may think.
By avoiding recommended STD tests, you could end up dealing with severe complications or putting others’ health at risk.
Here are some of the short- and long-term effects of avoiding STD testing:
Amongst the complications of untreated STIs increasing your chance of passing the disease to others is a major one.
Even if you practice safer sex and use condoms, the possibility of transmission remains significant. This is particularly true with STDs such as human papillomavirus (HPV) for which condoms just give partial protection.
If an STD is uncurable (such as genital herpes, HPV, HIV, and hepatitis B), knowing your condition may help you get the treatment and insights to decrease your infectivity.
Some complications of untreated STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, include pelvic inflammatory disease in women and infertility in both men and women.
Complications of syphilis may also lead to the obstruction of the epididymis, increasing the risk of male infertility.
To protect pregnancy possibilities, it’s essential to get examined for STDs if you are planning to have a family.
The USPSTF (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) suggests the screening of gonorrhea and chlamydia in all sexually active ladies age 24 and younger and elderly women at a higher risk of disease.
Endangering a Pregnancy
Some STDs pose a risk of not only to your pregnancy but to your unborn baby as well.
The infection might not just decrease the viability of a pregnancy, but it can also spread the infection to your infant before or during birth.
Pregnant women with untreated STDs like chlamydia are at a higher risk of premature birth, stillbirth, and miscarriage.
Gonorrhea can be transmitted from mother to child during vaginal delivery, causing a possible eye infection.
Worse yet, herpes and syphilis may be potentially fatal in a newborn.
By recognizing your STD status, you can reduce injury to yourself and your baby.
Getting or Passing HIV
Infection with certain STDs, especially ulcerative diseases like syphilis and herpes, can increase your sensitivity to HIV disease. The open sores give the virus an easy route into the body. For women and homosexual men, in whom the ulcers may be internalized, the risk is particularly high.
However, it is not just ulcerative STDs that pose a risk. Each STD will invariably trigger an inflammatory reaction in the genitals. When this happens, immune cells will flood the cells to combat the disease.
Many of the front-line cells (dendritic and macrophages cells) will “grab” HIV and transfer them to CD4 T-cells for neutralization. CD4 T-cells are the primary target for an HIV infection. Therefore, the body’s own immune response helps alleviate the infection.
On the flip side, having HIV and STD increases the amount of viral shedding in the genitals. What this signifies is that HIV will increase in numbers in response to inflammation caused by an STD. The higher the amount of the “shed” virus, the higher the possibility of transmission.
It’s only by getting tested and beginning HIV treatment to suppress the virus and protect against transmission. If you don’t have HIV, taking an STD test and getting treated decreases your risk of infection.
The complications of untreated STIs can have a life-long impact. Some of them may develop invisibly over the decades, usually without any outward symptoms. It is only years later that severe and seldom catastrophic complications can develop.
Gonorrhea: PID, infertility
Chlamydia: PID, infertility
Hepatitis B: Cirrhosis, liver cancer
Genital herpes: Bladder issues, meningitis
Syphilis: Loss of motor skills, blindness, dementia, and damage to the brain, eyes, heart, kidneys, and bones
HPV: Cervical cancer, rectal cancer
HIV: Shortened life expectancy, opportunistic infections
STD screening may be disruptive and scary, but the long-term benefits can’t help but outweigh the risks. Early testing gives you the way to get treatment before complications occur, or other people become infected.
If starting a new relationship, suggest that you and your spouse get tested at the same time. In this way, you can both make wise decisions and not “blame” the other for not taking action.
If you are in a long-term relationship and in doubt you have an STD, you may be forced to tell how you got infected if the test comes back positive.
Getting examined at least lets you know where you stand. Living in ignorance can affect others around you, including those you care about most.