The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the US is experiencing a steep and sustained rise in STD Infections for the fourth consecutive year. STD cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia have surged to record-breaking highs with many STD’s increasing by up to 30%. With so many new cases, STDs are considered a public health crisis by many. Undergoing regular and periodic STD testing is, therefore, an important preventative measure that helps you stay healthy and free of infections especially if you are sexually active. However, there is more to STDs than just STD testing. For many STDs, it is recommended that treatment be provided at the time of STD testing in certain high-risk exposures and this is something that may not be available at all centers, especially if they are just a lab facility. You need medical providers to assess risk and give treatment and in the case of HPV, even collecting samples is a skill that requires trained medical providers.
STD testing can therefore be quite a nerve-wracking experience. For other types of health concerns, it feels less stressful to make an appointment with your doctor or go straight to urgent care. You’re typically diagnosed seamlessly and you can quickly start a treatment plan. The process is generally simple and mostly stress-free. But with STD testing, there tends to be added elements of embarrassment, fear, dread, and worry.
We want to take away some of that anxiety for you by providing as much information as possible. In our experience, the appointment, waiting period and next steps all run smoother if you know what to expect. The first thing to know is that STD testing is a normal part of life. More than that, regular screening is the responsible choice to make for your health and the health of the people you’re intimate with. Next, understanding costs and treatment options is important. To help ease some of the anxiety around the STD testing process, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions. We hope this gives you a better idea of what to expect during your next appointment.
What Does STD Testing Cost Me
As with most doctor appointments, the cost of STD testing depends largely on whether you have health insurance and the type of insurance you have. If you have insurance, you’ll likely only need to pay the copay amount decided on by your healthcare provider. For those without insurance, STD testing can get pretty expensive.
STD testing centers are usually diagnostic lab centers who will charge anywhere from $150 to $360 for a single test. With such a wide price range, it makes sense for patients to explore their options. However, there are some risks involved in picking the less expensive STD testing options. Some companies that sell STD tests don’t have the right certification or equipment to properly screen for diseases. Others use tests that give unclear results. It is possible to get unreliable, or even incorrect, test results. Given the current state of STD infections, that is a risk you shouldn’t take.
We recommend that patients rely on a medical center they trust. Whether that is their local Statcare location or their regular doctor. If however, you still decide to go to a lab or a diagnostic center, be sure the facility you choose is registered with the State of New York and can provide quality test results and follow up care. You certainly don’t want to have an abnormal test result and be left alone to deal with it. Also, know that these centers do not keep injections and antibiotics that are recommended by CDC to be given at the time of STD testing in high-risk persons. Another big issue of concern is that these labs and diagnostic facilities usually do not have trained medical professionals to get cervical canal and anal canal specimens to screen for HPV testing which is a common asymptomatic STD in both men and women. We know that it’s important to find an STD testing center that is within your budget, but keep in mind that if the price sounds too good to be true, it’s probably because it is.
STD Prevention And STD Treatment
The goal of STD testing is to screen and identify persons with STDs. The prevention and control of STDs require that:
- Accurately assess the risk of STDs
- Provide vaccines where indicated to prevent vaccine-preventable STDs
- Identify asymptomatic and symptomatic persons with STDs
- Quickly diagnose, treat and follow up persons with STDs
- Identify at-risk sex partners who are at risk for STDs so they can be screened and treated as well
Statcare is unique in having a comprehensive STD Prevention and STD Treatment program in place so that all these five goals can be achieved.
The unfortunate reality of STD testing is that some people will test positive. While that may feel discouraging or a little scary at first, remember, the diagnosis is only one step. The next, and more important step, in the process is finding a treatment option that works for you. The goal is to get healthy again and the best way to do that is to start treatment immediately. It helps to get STD testing done at a facility that also has the ability to give you treatment on site.
Not every STD can be fully cured, but the symptoms of each STD can be managed. Below, you’ll find a list of the most common STDs and the treatment options available for them.
HIV/AIDS PEP & PrEP Treatment
Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is the virus that causes AIDS. Some symptoms of HIV include fever, headache, and swollen lymph nodes. The virus works to weaken a person’s ability to fight infections. Most places where you go for STD testing (especially if it is a lab or a diagnostic center) will not be able to prescribe you medicines to prevent HIV even if they identify it as a risk for you.
At Statcare however, when you come for STD testing, our providers can not only assess your risk for HIV but also give you PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) treatment with antiretroviral medicines (ART) if you believe you may have been exposed to HIV so that you can prevent getting infected by HIV. PEP has to be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV, so it is critical that you discuss this with the medical provider when you come in for STD testing. And if you believe, you will be in a high-risk situation, Statcare providers can also prescribe you PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis). PrEP, is a way for people to reduce their HIV risk by taking a pill every day. The pill (brand name Truvada) contains a combination of two medicines, tenofovir, and emtricitabine that work together to prevent HIV infection. PrEP, taken regularly reduces the risk of HIV infection by up to 92%
Once someone has HIV, the goal of HIV treatment is to keep a person’s levels in check as this is a condition that does not currently have a cure. The good news is, with proper treatment, a person living with HIV can lead a relatively healthy life. Antiretroviral drugs are the standard treatment, although there is some debate about when they should be taken in the course of HIV. The antiretroviral drugs do cause some unpleasant side effects and over time the body may develop a resistance. Because of this, some doctors say that the patient should wait to take the medicine, while others recommend starting immediately so that the HIV virus can be managed. If you test positive for HIV, talk to your doctor about their treatment philosophy. You can always get an additional opinion if your doctor recommends a course you’re not comfortable with.
Chlamydia is one of the most common STDs in the United States. Reports from the CDC showed that in 2017 not only was Chlamydia the most common STD but, more alarmingly, 45% of cases occurred among females between 15 and 24 years old. The increase in the spread of Chlamydia is attributed, in part, to the fact that most people don’t show symptoms. Often, men, women and their partners won’t know they have the infection until it shows up during STD testing. When symptoms do appear, they’re usually irritation or painful urination, itching, and swelling.
Chlamydia can be treated with an antibiotic prescribed by your doctor. It’s imperative that you finish the entire prescription as directed so that the infection does not become resistant to the drugs. Also, make sure your partner seeks treatment whether or not they’re showing symptoms. Follow up with another STD test 3 months after you finish your antibiotic treatment to confirm that you and your partner have been cured.
According to the CDC, in 2017 Gonorrhea cases increased by 67% over the past four years with rates nearly doubling among men. Gonorrhea is similar to Chlamydia in that it can be treated with antibiotics. The trouble is that some strains have become resistant to treatment. If you show positive for Gonorrhea during STD testing, you may need to take more than one drug to treat it. At Statcare, we have the medication on site. Be prepared to tell your partner they will need treatment, too. Failure to properly treat Gonorrhea can lead to permanent damage to both the male and female reproductive organs, so take your doctor’s orders seriously and don’t delay seeking treatment. At Statcare, medical providers are trained to identify and treat gonorrhea and stop it in its tracks even while you await results of your Gonorrhea testing.
Syphilis is a highly contagious disease. CDC data showed that in 2017, Syphilis cases increased by 76% with 70% of cases found among men who had sexual intercourse with other men. Syphilis is mostly spread through penetrative sex, but there are cases where it is transmitted through kissing and prolonged body contact. The infected person will develop sores, but they can go unrecognized, thus causing the spread of the disease.
Without treatment, Syphilis can cause some major health concerns. Untreated Syphilis can cause arthritis, brain damage and blindness in those who are infected. Fast diagnosis and treatment are crucial for those with Syphilis. Even without treatment, the sores tend to heal without scarring making the disease harder to recognize, so regular STD testing is necessary for those who are sexually active.
At Statcare, medical providers are trained to give post-exposure treatment for Syphilis as is recommended by the CDC even while you await test results for Syphilis.
Luckily, once diagnosed, the treatment for Syphilis is relatively easy. Your doctor will often prescribe you penicillin based on the stage of Syphilis and you’ll generally be back to normal after proper treatment. In the US, almost two generations of doctors have not seen or treated enough cases of Syphilis. As a result, many doctors make mistakes in identifying the stage of Syphilis. The treatment of Syphilis varies by the stages of the infection. As a result, Syphilis is being under-treated and this may be contributing to its spread as well. At Statcare, medical providers are trained to correctly identify and treat Syphilis even at the time of STD testing. Also, follow-up testing after treatment is the only way to make sure that you have been completely cured of the infection.
Herpes Simplex 2 Treatment
Once you are infected with Herpes (Herpes simplex Type 2 or HSV 2), the virus stays in your body forever. While you can’t fully cure the infection, there are ways to manage the symptoms of herpes so it doesn’t interfere with your daily life. Antiviral medication is typically prescribed in order to reduce the length and severity of the initial outbreak of genital herpes as well as any subsequent herpes outbreaks. After the first outbreak with HSV 2, patients should expect several other flare-ups per year, but they will lessen over time — especially with the right treatment and follow-up.
Herpes 2 treatment options may include suppressive therapy. Patients who suffer frequent, painful herpetic outbreaks are prescribed medicine to take every day in order to keep genital herpes symptoms at bay and prevent frequent outbreaks. Some patients want to avoid taking a daily pill, so this might not be the right option for your lifestyle. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and they will be able to give you a recommendation for management of Herpes simplex 2 based on your needs.
HPV Prevention and HPV Treatment
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a very common infection that rarely shows any symptoms. In fact, sometimes HPV goes away on its own. STD testing is required to diagnose HPV as some types can lead to cervical cancer or penile cancer.
On Friday, the FDA approved the HPV Vaccine (Gardasil) for men up to 45 years of age. Now, both men and women 27-45 years of age can get the vaccine to prevent HPV.
About 60 of the 100 types of HPV cause warts on areas like hands, feet, and genitals. The warts can show up weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected partner, making regular STD testing that much more important to maintaining your health.
An HPV test for women can be done with the Pap test. Similarly, in high-risk men, HPV test is performed using an anal Pap test. While Statcare does these tests routinely, many practices and especially labs and diagnostic centers may not have the trained personnel or the ability to perform this test or skip it entirely even in high-risk persons.
As we mentioned, the body often treats HPV on its own. If you experience warts that won’t go away, you may choose to laser or freeze them off. You can do this without requiring any prescription from your doctor, but it will likely cost you. Explore your options and ask your doctor for their recommendation.
Understanding STD Testing and Treatment Options
The cost of each individual STD treatment plan will vary. When planning for the costs associated with STD treatment, consider your insurance plan. Ask your healthcare provider what options are available to you and what medicines are covered. Depending on your diagnosis, you may be required to pay for ongoing treatment. If your budget is a concern, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for different options. They will work with you to find a treatment plan that makes you healthy and fits into your budget. At Statcare, all injectable medicines can be made available and treatment initiated without delay.
No matter how often you come in for STD testing, there will always be a certain amount of worry. But maintaining your health is so much more important than any worry you may have. The doctors at Statcare Urgent Care are here to answer any questions you have and talk you through each of your different treatment options, should you need them.
With time, you may even start to feel empowered. There is a sense of pride that comes to patients who take control of their own health and the health of their sexual partners. Over time, patients realize that there is no shame in regular STD testing. We encourage everyone to know their STD status and take the right steps to keep their body healthy.
If you want to learn more about our services, visit our STD Testing & Screening page or give us a call at (917) 310-3371. We’re happy to help you through the entire testing process.