what diseases are screened for in STD tests 

A STD testing ranks as one of the things that most people fear. If it were possible, people would get tested in the privacy of their homes.

The stigma that comes with having  STD Screening leads people to shy away from being tested – a situation which is more dangerous.

If some of these diseases are not treated on time, they may cause you a lot of harm. There are cases where they may lead to infections of the reproductive system which may cause infertility and many other severe consequences.

But what STDs are screened in an STD screening?

Common STDs and their respective recommended tests

There is a common misconception that once you go for a STD testing, all the STDs you have will show up in the screening.

This could not be further from the truth.

1. Chlamydia Testing

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chlamydia is the most common STD in America and it is bacterial in nature. There are currently about 2.9 million new chlamydia infections annually.

It is important for anyone who is sexually active to get STD tests for chlamydia annually or after any new sexual encounter. This is mainly because it is a common STD which is also treatable but does not show any symptoms.

Another good reason to have regular STD tests is because if left untreated it may cause infertility in both men and women. Additionally, the chances of reinfection are also very high.

It is not the best idea to test for Chlamydia through a blood test. This is because it is not a blood borne STI. The blood test will only show antibodies the body produces to fight the disease. If you have had a chlamydia infection before, your blood is bound to have some chlamydia antibodies and they may result in a false positive result.

A Nucleic Acid Amplification (NAA) test also called the DNA probe is one of the best ways to test for chlamydia. This test has three facets:

  • Urine samples – for this to be effective you should only include the first catch or initial stream of your urine.
  • Swab cultures- this may include, vaginal, urethral, rectal, endocervical, pharyngeal swabs.
  • Direct fluorescent antibodies (DFA)

2. Gonorrhea Testing

Like chlamydia, gonorrhea is a bacterial infection. It is also best tested using the NAA STD tests. But in addition to the three tests, you can also get a gram stain.

The gram stain entails getting eye swabs to see if the gonorrhea has affected the eyes.

Symptoms of gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can sometimes be a silent STD and not show any symptoms. However, sometimes it may have the following symptoms.

  • Green yellow discharge from the vagina or penis
  • Men may feel pain or have some swelling on their testicles
  • Increase in urination frequency
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Women may also experience pain during intercourse


This is also a bacterial infection but unlike the others, it growths through stages and can last in the body for several years.

Syphilis has also been nick-named “the great imitator” as it mimics the symptoms of various other illnesses. It is therefore critical to be screen regularly to avoid being treated for ghost illnesses while the real culprit keeps wreaking havoc on your body.

So what are the stages of syphilis?

  • Early stage

In this stage, syphilis manifests itself as small sores in the genitals, mouth or rectum. The sores are painless and can be referred to as chancre. Despite being painless, the sores are highly contagious and transfer infection on contact

Whether you treat the infection or not the sores disappear within about six weeks.

  • Secondary

This stages takes over at the 6 week mark and may last up to 6 months. It is characterized by symptoms such as headaches, rashes, genital or oral warts, fatigue weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever and aching joints.

This is the stage that mimics other illnesses the most. And just like in stage one, whether or not you treat the infection, the symptoms go away and the disease moves on the next stage.

  • Latent

In this stage, there are no symptoms. However, the infection is still present though dormant. This stage can last for a really long time, up to 20 years and then things turn nasty.

  • Tertiary

This is the last and most devastating stage of the infection. After being dormant for so long, syphilis seems to bring new symptoms with a vengeance.

The more severe symptoms include; blindness, heart and brain infections causing disorders in these organs, loss of motor skills, damage of kidneys and other internal organs.

Most cases will also lead to mental illness and a painful agonizing death.

The Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) is the screening test for syphilis.

The confirmation STD tests for syphilis include:

  • Enzyme immunoassay (EIA) test
  • Darkfield microscopy
  • Fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption (FTA-ABS) test
  • Treponema pallidum particle agglutination assay (TPPA)
  • Microhemagglutination assay (MHA-TP)

But the good news is that once you get your STD tests result and they are positive, the STD is treatable.

4. Herpes

There are several strains of herpes. Some are treatable but some are not. You may be surprised to know that chicken pox is caused by strain of herpes called varicella zoster virus. This is why chicken is also known as herpes zoster.

However, this strain is treatable and can be vaccinated against and is very different from the ones that cause the sexually transmitted herpes.

There are two strains of the STD herpes; HSV1 and HSV2. HSV1 is also known as cold sores and HSV2 genital herpes.

The virus gets into your body through mucous membranes that are found in your mouth, genitals and nose. 

Symptoms of herpes

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Itching
  • Blisters
  • Headaches 
  • Fever

If you happen to develop herpes while you are pregnant make sure you talk about it to your doctor. The doctor will give you a preparation to prevent the baby getting infected. They may even recommend a caesarean section rather than virginal birth to reduce the chances of the baby being infected.

Herpes STD tests can be done using the following methods:

  • Immunoblot (IgG)
  • Culture and typing

This involves using Immunofluorescent staining to check for the presence of herpes.

  • DFA


Hepatitis is a viral infection caused by the hepatitis A (HAV), hepatitis B (HBV) or hepatitis C (HCV) viruses. Unlike all the other STDs in this list, this one affects and inflames the liver.

Hepatitis lives in the body in two stages, the acute and chronic. The acute stage starts at the time of exposure to the virus to about six months. Interestingly, for reasons not known to science; for 0.7 of people with hepatitis C it clears itself during the acute stage.

The symptoms for acute hepatitis include; jaundice, fever, vomiting, stomach pain, tiredness, low appetite and your stool turning grey. In the acute stage, the symptoms may remain and liver failure may follow.

Like many STDs, donated blood was not screened for Hepatitis before 1992. It was not even known to exist until 1989. This puts people who received blood transfusions before 1992 at risk of exposure.

Tests for Hepatitis

  • Enzyme immunoassay
  • Chemiluminescence Immunoassay
  • Viral RNA Polymerase Chain Reactio
  • Genotyping

Who is at risk of getting STDs?

  • Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are at high risk and should have STD tests annually. This is the period within which the first infections appear.
  • Pregnant women, as they may infect their babies with the infection if it is not treated.
  • Men who have sex with men.

Final thoughts

If you are sexually active, it will be a prudent decision for you to get STD testing if you haven’t already.

If your issue is privacy, the medical sector has measures to ensure you are get confidential services such as STD labs. The testing procedures have also evolved and are less invasive.