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Testing for STIs and HIV

Testing is usually done with a swab and/or a urine test and a blood test. The infections we would routinely test for include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Syphilis
  • HIV

Tests done under special circumstances

Herpes simplex virus (HSV)

This is the same as the cold sore virus and is transmitted by skin to skin contact. It usually causes painful blisters/ulcers. It is tested for on a swab taken from the sore area. The symptoms of herpes can be treated with antiviral medication but there is not a cure for the virus. It is not a routine test, it may only be offered to patients with symptoms suspected to be herpes.

Trichomonas vaginalis (TV)

This is caused by a tiny parasite that usually causes symptoms in women. It can be cured with antibiotic treatment. Although we know men carry the infection too, it is very difficult to detect in men. It is not a routine test, it may only be offered to patients with symptoms.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial Vaginosis is a very common condition which develops when the normal environment of the vagina changes. One in three women will get it at some time. It is not a sexually transmitted infection but can develop after you have had sex. It may cause an unusual vaginal discharge.  It is not a routine test, it may only be offered to female patients with symptoms.

Candida (Thrush)

Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of yeasts and can cause symptoms in women and men. It is not a sexually transmitted infection. It is detected on a swab test. It can be treated with antifungal treatments. It is not a routine test, it may only be offered to patients with symptoms.

Hepatitis B

This infection is caused by a virus and affects the liver. It is not a common infection but certain groups are more at risk of coming into contact with it, therefore this is not a routine test. There is also a vaccination that can prevent against this infection. For more information, see High Risk Groups.

Other infections that may be diagnosed in clinic

Non-specific Urethritis

Non-specific urethritis (NSU) is inflammation of the urethra, which is the tube that urine comes out of. It is tested for in men with symptoms (for example pain on urination, redness, itching of the urethra, discharge). There are multiple different causes, ranging from STIs to an adverse reaction to cleaning products or a non-STI bacterial infection. If gonorrhoea has been ruled out as a cause, it can be called non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU). It is usually treated with antibiotics. Your partner(s) will also need to be treated.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

PID is an infection of the female upper genital tract, which includes the ovaries, womb and fallopian tubes. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection that has made its way up from the vagina or cervix through to the reproductive organs. Symptoms include lower abdominal pain, pain during sex, unusual discharge or bleeding. It is usually treated with antibiotics. Your partner(s) will also need to be treated.

Pubic Lice

Pubic lice are small parasites that live in human hair, usually pubic hair. They can’t jump between people and are only transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact. They can cause itching and you may notice lice or eggs on your hairs. These are treated with over-the-counter skin creams.

Scabies

Scabies is caused by small mites that make their way under the skin and can be passed on through close contact, or from infected clothing, towels or bed sheets. They can cause itching on multiple parts of your body and can cause a rash which can look similar to eczema. Scabies is treated with over-the-counter skin creams.

Routine tests for STIs

Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea

These infections are tested for on the same test. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are common bacterial infections. In men, these infections are tested for on a urine sample but on some occasions a swab may also need to be taken. In women, these infections are tested for on a swab that is either taken by the doctor/nurse or yourself.  Most men and women who have will not have any obvious signs or symptoms. Both can be cured with antibiotic treatment. This is a routine test offered to everybody.

HIV

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can be transmitted through sexual or blood contact and affects the immune system. Many people with HIV feel well and do not know they have the infection. Although it is treatable, it is not curable. It is important to test for HIV even if you don’t think you are at risk. This is a routine test offered to everybody.

Syphilis

This infection is caused by a bacterium and the symptoms can be difficult to recognise. It can be cured with antibiotic treatment. It is important to ensure Syphilis is treated as it can have serious long term health problems. This is a routine test offered to everybody.

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