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Teens and STDs: Get the Facts

For which STDs should I get tested?

We recommend that all sexually active teenage girls get a chlamydia test every year. We also recommend gonorrhea testing for teenage girls. Because we recognize that there's also a lot of HIV infection, although it's not as common in teenagers, we recommend that sexually active teenagers get at least one HIV test. Then, depending on their risk, their provider can decide whether or not they should get tested more often after that first test.

Syphilis is not as common in teenagers, so testing is not routinely recommended. But we do recommend if a teen ends up positive for chlamydia infection that they get tested for the other common STDs, which means gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. We don't recommend routine human papillomavirus (HPV) testing.

And of course, if your partner tests positive for an STD, you need to get yourself tested, as well.

How are STD tests done?

We have blood tests for HIV, syphilis, herpes, and hepatitis B. To be tested for chlamydia or gonorrhea, all the male needs to do is pee into a cup. A teenage girl can also pee into a cup. But if she has any kind of pelvic pain or discharge, then she needs to have a pelvic exam.

How are STDs treated?

There are different antibiotics for the treatable STDs, because the treatable STDs are all bacteria. Chlamydia is the most common STD. We typically use azithromycin (Zithromax), which can be given in a single dose [by mouth]. You can also take a drug called doxycycline for chlamydia. You have to take that twice a day for seven days. To treat gonorrhea, we recommend an injection of a drug called ceftriaxone. Syphilis is treated with an injection of penicillin.

Unfortunately for our viral STDs we don't have any treatments that cure them. If you become infected with herpes, that is a lifelong chronic viral infection. We can give people medication to decrease the symptoms, the severity of the symptoms, or the duration of the symptoms. The medication also decreases the amount of the virus that you shed, so it can make you less infectious.

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