Creating the Extraordinary Student Experience

What STIs can I get tested for at Student Health and which ones are curable?

Posted: February 8, 2013

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Q: Which Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) can you test for at Student Health and which ones are curable?

A: If you come to the Student Health Center to get screened for STIs (meaning you don't have any symptoms or worrisome exposures), we check for the following infections: HIV, Syphilis, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea

How do we do it?  We draw some blood and have you pee in a cup - it's as simple as that.  The blood test checks for HIV and syphilis, and the urine test checks for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia.  If you have the Comprehensive Student Health Insurance Plan, STI screening is covered once a year.  If you're on another insurance plan, check with them about coverage.

There are other STIs out there that we can check for if you have specific symptoms or exposures. 

  • Herpes: The only way to confirm that someone has genital herpes is by taking a swab of an active sore. We can do a blood test for antibodies to the Herpes virus, but they aren't very helpful; they only tell whether or not someone has been exposed to the virus, which doesn't necessarily mean that they have (or ever will have) active disease.
  • Hepatitis B&C: We can do a blood test for antibodies to these viral infections if someone is at high risk for acquiring them or if they have been exposed to it, but their incidence is so low in the general population that screening for them isn't useful or cost effective.
  • HPV: There is currently no screening test for HPV. The annual Pap smear that women receive is kind of an indirect test for HPV exposure since it screens for cervical cancer, which is caused by HPV infection, but in terms of checking for exposure to strains of HPV that cause genital warts, there are no tests. The only way to confirm if someone has HPV is if they develop a visible genital wart.
  • Trichomoniasis: Trich (sounds like "trick") is caused by a protozoan microorganism called Trichomonas Vaginalis. The infection may not cause any symptoms, but since it's not as common in the U.S. as other parts of the world, and because it usually does cause symptoms like discharge and itching, we don't routinely screen for it. We can test for that infection by doing a swab and looking at it under the microscope or taking a culture.

In terms of "curing" STIs:

Trichomoniasis and STIs caused by bacteria - Syphilis, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea - are eradicated with antibiotics.   Once they are treated, they're gone.

Those caused by viruses on the other hand - HIV, Herpes and Hepatitis - are a different story. There are no "cures" for any of these diseases; while antiviral medications can help manage flare-ups or delay the progression of the diseases they cause, once you're infected with them they stay with you for life.  As they say in med school: What's the difference between love and herpes? Herpes is forever!

HPV is a special case. The infection is caused by a virus, and can cause serious long term complications such as cervical, anal and throat cancer, but the majority of people infected with HPV clear the virus on their own and don't suffer any serious health consequences as a result of having it.

If you have any questions or concerns about STI testing, please make an appointment with Student Health Services - we're here to help!

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Photo: safesexnoregrets.nt.gov.au

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