In my last post, coinciding with STD Awareness Month, I wrote about the importance of discussing with your teen about condom use for vaginal, oral and anal sex to prevent STDs. Now it’s time, if you know your teen is sexually active, to urge them to get tested for STDs. But which tests to take?
1. Which Tests Should Your Teen Have?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that gay, lesbian and bisexuals get tested for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency virus) at least once a year.
If your teen is having receptive anal sex regardless of condom use, he/she should get rectal tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and blood tests for syphilis and HIV at their checkups.
For those who have insert sex, they should get urine tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia at the same frequency and also blood tests for HIV and syphilis.
Teens who have oral sex should get regular throat tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
Did you know that…
- Half of the new HIV infections (approximately 55,00 per year) in the United States occur in age group 13–24?
- It is possible to have HIV for ten years and not know it? During that time, someone who’s infected can spread it to many others.
- Late-stage HIV does cause symptoms but it can be confused with other ailments.
2. How Are the Tests Done?
How does your teen get tested for HIV? What are they tested for?
The tests are designed to detect HIV antibodies, the substances the body makes in response to exposure to HIV. These tests should work two to eight weeks after exposure.
Most results of standard HIV tests take a few days unless the blood or oral fluid sample is a false positive.
Standard Blood Tests: you may have to wait two weeks to get results. Even then there is a potential for a false positive test so the test, if positive, has to be repeated and rechecked.
Rapid Testing: Takes only 20 minutes. A positive rapid test must be confirmed by another more specific test like the standard blood test before a diagnosis is given.
Oral Testing: Uses mouth swabs (saliva) instead of blood. There are two FDA-approved.
Home Testing: There is only one FDA-approved home test for HIV called the Home Access HIV-1 Kit. Many drug stores carry this test. You prick your own finger, place a few drops of blood on a blotter, and send it to a national laboratory. To get results, you phone.
3. Where Do You Get These Tests?
Doctor’s office: For teens who are comfortable with doctors and like the familiarity of a doctor’s office, this would be a good choice.
Local testing site: Visit CDC’s HIVTest.org website to find the testing site nearest you. The CDC National AIDS Hotline can answer questions about testing and also can refer you to testing sites in your area. Or call your local health department and ask for the location of the nearest STD clinic. Planned Parenthood has free HIV testing.
At-home tests: Perfect for the shy teen who doesn’t want face-to-face contact with a medical professional and wishes to keep the findings confidential.
Whatever ambiance your teen is comfortable with and will do the follow up with to be tested, that’s the ideal place.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.