How to read your STD lab results.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that are spread during sex from person to person. You do not always have symptoms if you have an STD, and they are very common. Women particularly are more likely to carry an STD but not have any symptoms. Therefore you should get an STD test if:

  • You have any STD symptoms
  • Your partner has an STD
  • You have had unprotected sex or have unprotected sex regularly
  • You are in a high-risk relationship where your partner is an IV drug user (uses needles to take drugs), or your partner also has sex with other people
  • You are sexually active and have had an infection in the past (as you are more likely to contract an infection again).

If left untreated, STDs can lead to very serious health problems. If you are unsure of what STD test you need, then speak to your doctor. As long as you are open and honest with your doctor, they can advise you on the right STD tests to have done. If caught early, most STDs are very quick and easy to treat.

It can be confusing when you receive your STD results, even if a doctor talks through them. Knowing how to interpret your test results is important so that you have a good understanding of what they mean and what you need to do.

What do my results mean?

There are words, phrases, and symbols that you may see on your test results. Here is an overview of what they mean:

Word/Phrase/Symbol

Meaning

Less than

More than

Not detected

The disease has not been detected by the test

Detected

The disease has been detected by the test

Non-reactive

No anti-bodies were detected so you do not have the disease

Reactive

A reactive result is considered a preliminary positive. You may need further tests to confirm a diagnosis

Negative

You have tested negative for the disease

Positive

You have tested positive for the disease

Invalid

The test did not work properly and needs to be repeated

Reference range

This is the normal range for the results and most typical people will sit within this reference range


Remember, it is not common, but in some cases, you may have a false negative or false positive. This means that you can still carry a disease, but it has not shown up in the test. Or you test positive but do not have the disease. It is very rare for this to happen and testing too early could cause inaccurate results. This could leave one to believe they are STD free, when, they are not. This is ¬†due to each STD having its own “incubation period”, which you must out wait in order to gain more accurate results. Timing is valuable in regards to STD testing, reach out to your doctor if you have any questions!

 

Common STD test results, values and what they mean.

Test name

Overview

Results

How soon after sex can I get tested?

Chlamydia

A common bacterial infection that can easily be treated with antibiotics. The test may be either a swab sample, or a urine test.

A positive test result means that you have chlamydia and will need treatment

It can take 7-21 days for chlamydia to show up on a test.

Therefore, you can get tested at any time, but you may be asked to repeat the test if you had sex less than 3 weeks ago.

Gonorrhea

A common bacterial infection that can easily be treated with antibiotics. The test may be either a swab sample, or a urine test.

A positive test result means that you have gonorrhea and will need treatment

It can take 1-14 days for gonorrhea to show up on a test.

Therefore, you can get tested at any time, but you may be asked to repeat the test if you had sex less than 2 weeks ago.

Epididymitis

This is an infection in the testicles that can be treated with antibiotics. It can be caused by contracting chlamydia, gonorrhea, or from a urine infection. Swabs and urine tests may be taken to test for epididymitis and other STDs that may cause it.

You may need a combination of a physical exam, blood test, urine test, or ultrasound to diagnose epididymitis.

You can get tested at any time and should seek advice from your doctor if you have any pain or swelling in your testicles.

Hepatitis A

A contagious liver infection that can be transmitted through unprotected sex.

The test checks for antibodies which are produced by the body to fight the infection. If there are no antibodies present, the test is negative, and you do not have the disease.

IgM antibodies are present if you have an active or a recent infection. This is reported as positive or reactive.

IgG antibodies are present if you have been vaccinated, or have had an infection in the past. This is reported as positive or reactive.

It can take 15-50 days after being infected for Hepatitis A to show up on a blood test.

Hepatitis B

A serious liver infection that can be transmitted through unprotected sex. There is no cure for hepatitis B.

HBsAg: A positive or reactive HBsAg test result means that the person is infected with hepatitis B. You may need further tests to establish if the disease is acute or chronic.

Anti-HBs or HBsAb: A positive or reactive anti-HBs or HBsAb test result shows that a person is protected against the hepatitis B virus. You are not infected and cannot spread hepatitis B to others.

Anti-HBc or HBcAb: A positive or reactive anti-HBc or HBcAb test result indicates a past or current hepatitis B infection. This test needs to be taken in consideration with the previous two tests. A doctor will need to explain if you have hepatitis B or not depending on the results of the other tests.

It can take 8-22 weeks after being infected for hepatitis B to show up on a blood test.

Hepatitis C

A serious liver infection that can be transmitted through unprotected sex. If left untreated it can lead to serious liver disease.

A non-reactive or negative test result means that you do not have the virus. The exception is if you have come into contact with the virus recently, such as through contaminated blood. If this is the case, you will need to have another test.

A reactive or positive test result means that you have had the virus at some point but does not mean that you still have it. Further tests will be needed to check whether the virus is still active and if you need treatment.

It can take 2-26 weeks after being infected for hepatitis C to show up on a blood test.

Herpes Simplex Virus

A common virus that can cause sores on your genitals or in your mouth.

Negative/Normal-you do not have the herpes simplex virus.

Positive/Abnormal-means that you have an active infection (if sores are present), or were infected in the past (if no sores are present).

Herpes simplex can be detected 2-12 days after it has been contracted.

HIV

HIV is a serious infection that weakens your immune system meaning it makes it easier for you to get sick. It can lead to AIDS. Although there is no cure, treatment can slow down the disease meaning you can have a healthy life for several decades.

A positive test result means that you have HIV and will need treatment to help manage the disease.

It can take 2-4 weeks after being infected for HIV to show up on a blood test. Tests results are usually reliable one month after infection.

Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV)

This is a rare virus that can be contracted through unprotected sex, needle sharing, or can be passed from mother to baby. The majority of people will have no symptoms.

A positive test indicates that you have HTLV.

If the result is negative, then you are less likely to be infected, but you may not have enough of the virus in your blood for it to be detected.

The time between becoming infected and developing symptoms can be decades, 10-40 years.

The strength of the virus in the blood can increase over time. Therefore, you can have a negative result but may be asked to be tested again at a later date.

Urinary Tract Infection

Can develop by themselves or be passed through unprotected sex. If left untreated a urinary tract infection can spread to the kidneys causing more serious problems. It can easily be treated with antibiotics.

There are a number of elements observed when analysing a urine test. Due to the complex nature of this test, it is best to discuss your urinalysis test results with your doctor. If the results show you are positive for an infection you will need antibiotics to treat it.

Symptoms usually occur 3-8 days after the infection has been contracted. However, you may not have symptoms and can be tested at any time.

Syphilis

A common bacteria infection spread through unprotected sex. It can be treated with antibiotics but can cause serious problems if left untreated.

A positive or reactive test result means that you have syphilis and will need treatment.

If your test is negative then further testing may be advised if you are at risk of contracting syphilis.

Symptoms may not occur for 3 weeks-20 years depending on the type of syphilis. It is recommended that you get tested for syphilis at any time if you are concerned you are at risk, have symptoms, or have had unprotected sex.

Trichomonas Vaginalis (Trich)

Is caused by a parasite, and is very common. Most people do not have symptoms and it can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated it can infect your urethra or cause vaginitis.

If the test result is positive then you have Trichomonas Vaginalis and will need treatment.

It can take 5-28 days for symptoms to occur and to show positive in a swab test or urine sample. You can get tested at any time but may be asked to have a repeat test if the results were negative and you still have symptoms.


What happens if I get positive test results?

If your test result is positive then it is important that you speak with your doctor about the next steps. Private MD Labs is only able to provide you with the requisition for testing and the results. We cannot provide you with a prescription for medication. If left untreated STDs can cause serious problems therefore it is vital that you share your results with your doctor so that they can prescribe appropriate treatment.

Are my results confidential?
Yes, we will always maintain strict confidentiality regarding your lab results and your personal information. The results are only shared with you and no one else. Your physician or insurance company will not receive a copy of your lab results.

Can I get tested for everything at once?

Yes, we have comprehensive STD Panels that include many common STD’s. If you want a full range of STD tests then you can order them here.

It can feel embarrassing or nerve wracking to have an STD test but there is no need to feel like this. STDs are common, and most can be easily treated if caught early. Our service is confidential, and convenient to organise at a laboratory location listed on our website. If you are concerned about your results, do not know what they mean, or have a question, then reach out to your doctor for advice. They can give you a full explanation and support you through any treatment you may need. By being proactive in having an STD test you are taking charge of your own health in a positive way.

 

 

 

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