There are several reasons why screening for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) isn’t an infallible way to avoid STDs. That said, it is still one of the best things you can do to lessen your risk of acquiring an STD (together with practicing safe sex), even though it isn’t ideal.
Part of taking responsibility for your sexual health is admitting that even if you do everything correctly, sexual action still has risks.
Condoms and dental dams can neglect. STD tests do not necessarily provide the entire picture.
Reasons Why You May Not Know You Have an STD
You may think that if you come from your yearly doctor’s visit using a clean bill of health, you do not need to be worried about whether you have an STD. That’s a misconception that is dangerous, and here’s why:
- You may not have ever been tested. A great deal of people think their doctor screens them for STDs as part of the annual exam. That is, regrettably, untrue. Many doctors don’t regularly screen their clients for STDs, even when practice guidelines state they should. The only way to be certain you’re getting tested for STDs would be to ask your doctor to test you and provide him or her a list of what you want to be tested for. Bear in mind, your fresh STD test results simply show that you’re most likely damaging for diseases you actually got tested for.
- You might have been tested too soon. Some STD tests aren’t successful for a recently acquired infection. Recent studies have, as an example, revealed that the standard blood test for syphilis is unsuccessful at detecting early cases of this disease. The kinds of HIV tests and other STD tests which look for an antibody reaction rather than searching for the pathogen itself might be particularly susceptible to this issue. It takes time for an antibody response to develop.
- The evaluation gave an inaccurate outcome. When designing a diagnostic test, there’s always a trade-off between sensitivity and specificity. Almost no test is going to be absolutely able to ascertain whether or not someone is infected. The ability of an STD evaluation to predict your wellbeing is dependent, in part, on the people that evaluation is being used in (see this example about the truth of herpes blood tests.) Most evaluations are made to be pretty good, and there are almost always ways to make their diagnoses more accurate. Both false positives and false negatives can be an issue. That problem you need to be worried about depends on the disorder in question and the evaluation that is used to discover it.
- You’re given the wrong test. There isn’t always a ideal evaluation, but sometimes there’s a wrong one. As stated above, every diagnostic evaluation has trade-offs. There are often tests which are more or less accurate depending upon the circumstance as well as the population. The dilemma is that the best test isn’t always practical or available. Therefore, physicians will sometimes wind up needing to use a less precise method of identification.
- Your physician did not test for the STD you might have. There are some diseases for which there aren’t any business tests, or for which doctors just don’t bother to test because the disease is rare or because it’s not likely to cause serious problems if it is left untreated. By way of instance, doctors don’t try for molluscum contagiosum because they assume that anyone infected will have signs and because a disease will usually run its course without any serious side effects.
On the other hand, doctors are most likely unlikely to test for rectal chlamydia, rectal cancer, and other rectal STDs for different explanations. They might not offer the evaluations because of the relative rarity of those conditions or because they are uncomfortable asking the sexual background questions that would permit them to determine that you’re in danger. Even when reasonably accurate tests can be found, they don’t do any good if they are not being used.
A Word in Verywell
Regular STD screening is an important tool for reducing the likelihood you’ll have an undetected and untreated STD you could transmit to other people. However, it is important to remember that regular STD testing and consistently practicing safe sex doesn’t make sex a safe activity. Reduced risk, yes, but STD tests are not 100 percent effective and neither is safe sex.
With appropriate precautions, sex is a relatively low-risk method to experience pleasure and connection and show your affection for someone. That does not mean sex can’t have consequences. Part of being responsible for your sexual health is keeping these possible consequences in your mind.
STD testing is a good tool for creating better decisions about what degrees of risk you find appropriate in any particular situation.