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The differences between male and female anatomy mean that certain tests for sexually transmitted infections are markedly different in one sex when compared to the other. That being said, as this article will show, other tests remain pretty much the same regardless of whether it is a woman or a man being tested.

Testing women for STIs through blood tests

Women are tested for some infections in the same way as men, and the blood test is a good example of this. A blood sample is given for this test, and is then given to a specialist laboratory for examination. Once in the lab, your blood sample is either tested for antibodies or for the presence of the pathogens causing an infection.

Antibodies are small compounds produced by your  body as part of a complex defense system. Antibodies are specific to particular infectious agents, meaning that the antibodies that work to defend you against Herpes will be very different to the ones which defend you against the Flu. Because of this specificity, antibodies are a useful diagnostic tool and are used particularly for the detection of the Herpes Simplex virus.

If your blood isn’t being tested for antibodies, it will probably be studied under a microscope or by some other means to detect the presence of the actual bacteria or fungus causing your illness.

Testing women for STIs through urine tests

Urine tests are a fairly standard and routine method of detecting sexually transmitted infections. They are simple and effective, and can yield very accurate diagnoses because most STIs affect the urethra, a structure running from the bladder through to the end of the vagina. Therefore when you urinate, the fluid passes through the urethra picking up any pathogens therein.

Testing women for STIs through vaginal swabs

As mentioned above, many STIs affect the urethra, and as such taking a sample from inside the vagina is an effective method of testing for STIs. This is the test that is obviously different in women, and is the equivalent to the penile swab. Once the sample is taken it is sent off for analysis to a lab, and is treated like a urine or blood test in that it is examined for the presence of particular pathogens.

While there aren’t any sexually transmitted diseases/infections which are unique to men, the anatomical differences between the sexes means that men are subject to their own tests. Men are typically tested for STIs via blood tests, urine tests, or penile swabs, and in this article these tests and how they are used is discussed.

Testing men for STIs through blood tests

Most infection causing agents, namely bacteria, fungi, and viruses, will be found in your blood if you are unwell. In most cases a blood test will involve your doctor examining your blood for the presence of these pathogens. Blood tests are used to test for STIs like HIV (Human Immunovirus – the pathogen that causes AIDS), Herpes, Syphilis and Hepatitis.

While for some conditions blood is examined for the presence of infection causing pathogens, for others it is tested for the presence of small molecules called antibodies. Antibodies are generated by your body in response to the presence of an unwanted infectious agent, and are specific to the bacteria, virus, or fungus in question. Looking for antibodies specific to a disease, like Herpes for example, is a good diagnostic measure of whether or not you suffer from that infection.

Testing men for STIs through urine tests

The most STIs tested for by means of urine tests are Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Urine tests are, in principle, similar to blood tests in that a sample of urine is taken and cultured so that any bacteria or fungi in the sample have a chance to grow. Once the pathogens in the sample have grown enough, they can be detected and an accurate diagnosis can be made.

Testing men for STIs through penile swabs

The penile swab is the test that most men feel uncomfortable with, even though in actual fact it is quick and easy to perform. The swab tests for STIs that can only be detected in a sample of tissue from inside the penis, or more specifically, a part of the penis called the urethra. The urethra is the tube running from your kidneys to the end of your penis, but it also adjoins onto another structure passing semen from your testicles out through the same route. Gonorrhea is an example of an STI that is most accurately detected through a penile swab.

Which STI test is most suited to your particular symptoms is a decision your doctor is most likely to make.

STI/STD Testing Clinics

Wiltshire Sexual Health
Salisbury District Hospital
Odstock Road
Tel: 01722 425120

Your Sexual Health
Finchley Road
182 Finchley Road
Tel: 0161 413 2258 

Random Health
Canary Wharf
Unit 2, 25 Cabot Square
E14 4QA
Tel: 028 8044 0557