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Frequently Asked Questions About STDs
1. Will I always know if I have an STD?
No. Some men with gonorrhea may have no symptoms at all. In women the symptoms of gonorrhea are often mild, but most women who are infected have no symptoms. Chlamydia is known as a “silent” disease because about 75% of infected women and about 50% of infected men have no symptoms. The only way to know for sure is to get tested for STDs.
2. Do adolescents (teenagers, youth under 18 years old) need parent/guardian permission for testing and treatment of STDs?
No, the DC Law clearly states that adolescents may seek and obtain medical testing and treatment for STDs and HIV without parental/guardian permission. The DC Department of Health will test and treat anyone 12 years of age and older at our SE Clinic without parental permission.
3. Does my primary care doctor automatically test me for STDs at my annual physical?
Not always. Some doctors conduct a sexual risk assessment on their patients yearly. Often, patients have to request to be tested for STDs. It is important to be specific with your doctor about which types of tests you want and your risk behaviors so they can provide appropriate treatment. If you haven’t had an honest conversation with your healthcare provider about your sexual activity then you probably haven’t been tested appropriately.
4. If I have unprotected sex on a Saturday can I come into the SE STD Clinic on Monday and get tested for possible STDs?
Yes, you can. But it is important to realize that it can take weeks from the time of exposure and possible infection until symptoms occur or our diagnostic tests turn positive. So, if you did have unprotected sex on Saturday and came into the clinic for testing on Monday, regardless of your test results, it is important to be re-tested in approximately six weeks, even if you don’t develop symptoms.
5. Shouldn’t I only get tested when I have a new partner?
The DOH recommends annual testing for STDs and HIV for anyone who is sexually active. If a person engages in higher risk activities such as sex with multiple partners, frequent changes in sex partners, unprotected sex (oral, anal or vaginal) or sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs we recommend testing every three to six months.
6. Does the exam cost any money?
No, the SE STD Clinic does not charge for any of its services. We do not bill insurance either.
7. Is my visit confidential?
Absolutely! We can not share any information with anyone without your written permission, including parents or guardians. That means we can’t tell your parents, your teachers or your employer that you got tested and we can’t tell them the results.
8. How come you ask for photo ID?
We request to see ID to confirm that your identifying information is accurate should we have to contact you in the future about your test results. It is also important that we are able to keep an accurate record of your visits. This will allow us to better understand your history and previous experiences at the clinic to better treat you. Please do not be concerned about this; remember, we can’t share any information about your visit without your permission.
9. What about my sex partners?
We encourage you to bring your sex partners with you. If you are infected with an STD your partner could be at risk. Further, if you get treated and your partner doesn’t get treated you run the risk of getting the STD again, from them. If you are nervous about telling your sex partner about your STD we can help. Our trained staff can help you tell them or inform your sex partner anonymously that they were exposed to an STD. That means they won’t share ANY identifying information about you. For more information on how you can anonymously tell your sex partners about possible exposure to an STD, visit www.inSPOT.org.
10. Do I have to be seen by a clinician to get some condoms?
No, condoms and other safer sex devices are available at the SE Clinic for free. Just come in and tell the person sitting at the front desk you want some condoms, lube, dental dams or female condoms. They will provide you with what is available. Condoms are always available, supplies of dental dams, lube, and female condoms sometimes run low. The DC Department of Health recommends that you use a condom each and every time you have sex.
11. Do I have to be seen by a clinician to get the rapid HIV test?
It is important to realize that if you are at risk for acquiring HIV you are at risk for getting other STDs. It would be beneficial for your health to get a full check up by the clinicians. But, you do not have to be seen by the clinician. You will see a counselor who will discuss the HIV test with you. The results of the rapid oral HIV test are usually ready in 20 minutes.
12. Can I get a Hepatitis A or B Vaccine free of charge?
Absolutely. It is recommended that all persons obtain the Hepatitis B vaccine and Hepatitis A is recommended for men who have sex with men, IV drug users, and persons with chronic liver disease. You may come into the clinic just for the vaccine; it will be administered by a clinician who will ask you wait 15 minutes after the vaccine to ensure there are no adverse reactions (very rare).
13. Is my STD curable?
Most bacterial infections (such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis) are curable with antibiotics. Regardless, it is important to get re-tested in three months to make sure that you have cleared the bacterial infection or have not gotten re-infected. Herpes, HIV and genital warts are all caused by viruses, and although there are medicines to treat the infections, no cure is possible at this time.
14. What can I do to reduce my risk of getting an STD?
First, talk with your partners. It is important that you know how many other partners he/she has had or currently has and if he/she has been tested recently for STDs, including HIV. And, second, wear a condom (a dental dam for oral sex) each and every time you have sex.