As a walk-in clinic that offers confidential STD testing in Silver Spring, Fast Track Urgent Care sees a lot of worried patients. If you are concerned that you many have contracted a sexually transmitted disease or sexually transmitted infection, we urge you to come in to one of our two locations and get tested. And we encourage everyone to do everything they can to avoid contracting or passing on an STD.
There are many things you can do to protect yourself and your partner(s) from STDs.
Safe(r) Sex Practices
The only 100 percent effective way to avoid STDs is to be abstinent (not have sex at all). However, most people choose to be sexually active at some point in their lives. It’s important to protect yourself and your partner during all sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Using a latex condom is the best way to prevent spreading sexually transmitted diseases. However, condoms are not a guarantee against the spread of infection! They are the simply the best defense we have available.
Use Condoms to Prevent STDs
Condoms are only effective when used properly. Follow these guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control to use a condom correctly:
- Use a new condom for every act of vaginal, anal and oral sex throughout the entire sex act (from start to finish). Before any genital contact, put the condom on the tip of the erect penis with the rolled side out.
- If the condom does not have a reservoir tip, pinch the tip enough to leave a half-inch space for semen to collect. Holding the tip, unroll the condom all the way to the base of the erect penis.
- After ejaculation and before the penis gets soft, grip the rim of the condom and carefully withdraw. Then gently pull the condom off the penis, making sure that semen doesn’t spill out.
- Wrap the condom in a tissue and throw it in the trash where others won’t handle it.
- If you feel the condom break at any point during sexual activity, stop immediately, withdraw, remove the broken condom, and put on a new condom.
- Ensure that adequate lubrication is used during vaginal and anal sex, which might require water-based lubricants. Oil-based lubricants (e.g., petroleum jelly, shortening, mineral oil, massage oils, body lotions, and cooking oil) should not be used because they can weaken latex, causing breakage.
See a comprehensive overview of condoms and their proper use.
Common STDs that Condom Use Can Help Prevent
- Chlamydia – Chlamydia is caused by bacteria passed from partner to partner during sex. Many people are unaware they have chlamydia as it often does not cause symptoms—which means it often goes untreated for a long time. Chlamydia symptoms for women, when apparent, can include abdominal pain, vaginal discharge, painful sex, minor fever, painful urination, swelling around the vagina or anus, and bleeding after intercourse. Chlamydia symptoms for men can include unusual discharge from the penis, swelling around the anus and testicles, and pain or burning during urination.
- Gonorrhea – Gonorrhea is another bacterial infection that can infect the penis, urethra, vagina, cervix, anus, or throat. It also often does not impart symptoms. Symptoms for women can include abdominal pain, painful sex and urination, spotting (bleeding) between periods, yellowish or greenish vaginal discharge. Symptoms for men can include pus-like discharge from the penis, frequent urination, and pain or burning during urination. Left untreated, gonorrhea can cause stillbirth and premature labor and can cause infertility in both women and men.
- Herpes – Herpes is very common and can be oral (occurring on or near the mouth) or genital (occurring on or near the genitals). Caused by two different viruses, both oral and genital herpes are easy to contract and transmit. Symptoms of oral herpes are cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth. Symptoms of genital herpes include blisters and open sores on the vagina, cervix, vulva, penis, buttocks, or anus. Itching, burning, and pain often accompany the sores. Herpes can be treated but not cured; once you contract herpes you will have recurring symptoms for life.
- HIV/AIDS – Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) breaks down the immune system; acquired immune deficiency syndrome is the most advanced stage of HIV. HIV/AIDS is transmitted through sexual activity. Infected people rarely develop symptoms soon after being infected; initial post-infection symptoms can include swollen glands, fatigue, headaches, minor feverishness, and muscle aches. Additional symptoms that signal the stages of HIV can begin more than 10 years later. This is why it’s absolutely critical to get tested for HIV if you think you may have been infected.
- HPV – HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common infection; nearly all sexually active people get it, but most don’t know they have it. HPV is unusual because there are more than 100 types—most are actually harmless but some can cause genital warts while others can lead to cervical cancer. HPV is discovered in women via abnormal pap smear results—which is why getting an annual pap smear is extremely important. HPV in men typically goes away without causing any symptoms or illness.
- Syphilis – Syphilis is yet another venereal disease that often doesn’t have obvious symptoms. When symptoms are present, they appear in two stages. In the first stage, you may experience a wet, open sore, usually painless, on the genitals, vagina, cervix, anus, breasts, lips, or mouth. In the second stage, occurring 3-6 weeks after the first, you may experience body rashes on your palms or soles of your feet; you may also have fever, fatigue, sore throat, muscle pains, and more. One third of those who have syphilis experience a third, or late, stage, that may damage your nervous system, heart, brain, and other organs.
These are just a few of the sexually transmitted diseases that can affect sexually active people. Protect yourself by practicing safe(r) sex with condom use.
The Importance of STD Testing
Since so many STDs don’t present symptoms right away or at all, it’s absolutely critical to your health and the health and safety of your sexual partner(s) to get tested for STDs if you think you may have been infected. It’s understandable that you may wish to get tested discreetly. You can get a confidential STD test in Silver Spring at both Fast Track Urgent Care locations. Feel free to call Fast Track at 800-417-1164 with any questions about STDs or STD testing.