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Ask Dr. K

I'm confused about which STD tests work on which body parts. For instance, is it possible to get gonorrhea or HPV in the anus or throat as well as the genital area? Does a test in the genital area confirm its presence elsewhere, or do all areas need to be tested separately?

The reason you're confused is because unless you are an infectious disease doctor, this is confusing stuff! Some STDs can be found in more than one body part, depending on what type of sex you had with whom (male or female). To answer your question specifically, you can get gonorrhea in any of the three places you list -- anus, throat, or genitals (penis or vagina). HPV and chlamydia, on the other hand, strike the genitals and anus, but rarely the throat.

For gonorrhea and chlamydia, it is actually necessary to test each and every part of your body that could be infected. This could mean a urine test (which picks up penile or vaginal infection) or a specific vaginal, penile, throat or anal swab. The test for syphilis, though, is a blood test for antibodies, which means that one test can tell if you've been exposed in any of the affected areas. Herpes is a different beast all together. If you are having an outbreak, you can test the sore, but if not, a blood test is required to detect antibodies to the virus. HPV is usually tested for by proxy -- looking for abnormal cells rather than the virus itself but recently tests that detect HPV itself are being used. Warts are also caused by HPV and many doctors can diagnose HPV-related warts just be looking at them.

Keep in mind that most STDs do not have any symptoms. So to sum up, if you use it, test it. If you are unclear, ask. Click here for more information on complete STD screenings.

To your health,
Dr. K

Last modified on Thursday, November 19, 2009.
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