Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) Patient Information Fact Sheet

What tests confirm a diagnosis of an STD?
Different tests can confirm the presence of an STD, including blood and urine tests, Pap smears, and direct testing of discharges from active sores. Pregnant women appear to get the bulk of screening for STDs, due to the fact that some diseases can be passed to an unborn child. The first prenatal visit usually includes screenings for HIV, hepatitis B, chlamydia, and syphilis; further tests, for hepatitis C and gonorrhea, are recommended at least once during pregnancy for women at high risk for these infections. Sexually active women who aren’t pregnant can test themselves for chlamydia and gonorrhea using an at-home testing kit. Positive results, however, should be verified by re-testing in a doctor’s office or public health clinic. Moreover, the patient’s current partner, as well as his or her other sexual partners within the past year, should be told about the results so that they can get tested themselves.

How are STDs treated?
Most STDs can be cured with oral antibiotics, often in a single dose. Azithromycin or doxycycline, in particular, is recommended for persons who test positive for chlamydia. Gonorrhea, which often appears at the same time as chlamydia, is treated with either of the same two drugs, another medication, or a combination, depending on the type of infection. However, as mentioned earlier, gonorrhea is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, which limits the ways to cure it. Because of this, the CDC STD treatment guidelines currently recommend a combination therapy of ceftriaxone (Rocephin) with either azithromycin (Zithromax) or doxycycline (Vibramycin) to treat uncomplicated gonococcal infections.

Syphilis also responds to azithromycin or doxycycline, but a shot of penicillin is usually the most effective treatment for someone who had syphilis for less than a year. Someone who had syphilis for greater than a year will need additional doses. This is the best choice for pregnant women, as a drug like tetracycline can endanger the fetus.

Two vaccines, a bivalent human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine (Cervarix) and a quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil), are available in the US to protect against types of HPV that can cause genital warts and certain cancers, including cervical cancer. The vaccines are approved for girls and women 9–26 years old, but only Gardasil is recommend for use in males in the same age group. The CDC recommends that, ideally, females receive either one of the vaccines (given in a series of 3 shots) before becoming sexually active.

Further information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mayo Clinic

Last Reviewed: June 2013