An STI is a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection that’s transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. While people an infection may be passed on from one person to another through any exchange of bodily fluids, most transmissions occur during a sexual act. Thus, these infections are commonly referred to as STIs.
Perhaps the most well-known STI is HIV, which causes AIDs. It is not the only STI, though, nor is it necessarily the most common. Other STIs include genital herpes, genital warts, chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), and hepatitis B. These are just a few examples.
STIs and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are very similar. Medical providers used to refer to these infections as STDs, and the term is still sometimes used. Because an infection may not manifest symptoms of a disease, though, STI is the most accurate term and has become the preferred term.
STIs are diagnosed using a battery of tests. Each test checks for specific STIs. Depending on what STIs a patient might have, a doctor may order:
A swabbing of the genitals or anus to check for herpes
A blood test to check for HIV, hepatitis, and syphilis
A urine test to check for chlamydia and gonorrhea
When a patient might have multiple STIs, multiple tests may be ordered.
An STI appointment is similar to any other doctor appointment. It usually includes taking a medical history, checking vitals, discussing symptoms with the healthcare provider, and likely a test and exam.
Appointments, like all medical services, are kept confidential. Doctors often ask for permission to share their diagnosis with other providers and to tell insurers what tests were ordered. Whether anyone else finds out about the appointment is up to the patient.
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