Sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) are spread through sexual contact including vaginal intercourse, oral sex, and anal sex, and sometimes even through intimate skin-to-skin contact. Many STDs have no symptoms or symptoms that are so mild you may not notice them. Without treatment, people with STDs can spread disease and are at risk of possibly developing serious complications. With STD screening, these diseases can be identified and often treated, if not cured.
All STDs are preventable. The only failproof way to avoid getting an STD is not having sexual contact. If you choose to have sexual contact, you can reduce your odds of getting an STD by:
Learning how to use latex condoms correctly and using them every time you have sexual contact. Condoms are available free of charge without an appointment at Student Health Services.
Being in a long-term monogamous relationship (having sexual contact with only one person who does not have sexual contact with anyone but you) with someone you trust who does not have a sexually-transmitted disease. Even people without symptoms can have STDs; the only way to confirm someone’s STD status is through testing.
What are the symptoms of STDs?
Many STDs have no symptoms or symptoms that are so mild you may not notice them. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should be seen right away for evaluation:
Discharge from the penis or vagina
Burning feeling while urinating
Pain with sexual activity
A rash, bumps, sores, blisters or warts in the genital area
Why STDs should I be tested for and how often?
The healthcare provider will talk with you to determine which tests are recommended given your specific situation and how often you should be tested. In general, it is recommended that sexually active individuals younger than 25 years and individuals with one or more new sexual partner(s) within the last year be screened on an annual basis, sooner if they are experiencing symptoms or if they have multiple partners.
Do I have to have an exam to get an STD screening?
While STD screening does require an office visit with a healthcare provider, it does not require a PAP/pelvic exam or swabbing of the male urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder to the outside of the body). STD screening can be performed from a urine sample and blood draw obtained at Student Health Services.
If you are experiencing symptoms, an exam is recommended for both females (including a pelvic exam) and males. If you are a female and due for a PAP (a screening for cervical cancer where a brushing of cervical cells is collected during a pelvic exam), an STD screening can also be performed during the exam.
Do I need an appointment for STD screening?
STD screening requires an appointment. The visit, including exam if necessary, is free for currently enrolled students. There is a cost for the testing (see table below.) Making an appointment increases the likelihood that you can be seen within a time frame that meets your needs. Same-day appointments are often available. Walk-ins are seen on a space-available basis. Priority will be given to patients with scheduled appointments.
How much does STD screening cost?
The following STD tests and PAP smear labs are offered at a discounted rate to currently enrolled students. Your insurance can be billed for these services, if you like. Uninsured patients who pay the bill in full within 25 days of service receive a 40% discount.
UW student rate
If paid within 25 days
What about Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?
There are over 70 different types of human papilloma viruses (HPV). Some cause genital warts, some cause cervical cancer, and some cause other cancers. Screening for HPV is generally not recommended. Females who have an abnormal PAP result may have HPV testing performed.
Vaccinations are available that protect against four types of HPV including the two types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers in women and two types of HPV that cause most genital warts in female and males. It is given in a series of three doses and is available for females and males ages 9 to 26 years. The nurse practitioner can help you decide if this vaccination is appropriate for you. While we do not carry this vaccine at SHS, we can help connect you to affordable resources in the community that do.
If you believe you have been exposed to HIV, seek medical attention immediately. There is some evidence that an immediate course of antiviral drugs, when started within 72 hours of exposure, can reduce the chances that you will be infected. This is called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). It has been used to prevent transmission in healthcare workers injured by needle sticks. There is less information available on how effective PEP is for people exposed to HIV through sexual activity, but it appears to be effective. Anyone who has been sexually assaulted should discuss the potential risks and benefits of PEP with a healthcare provider.