free STD testing

STDs vs STIs: What’s the Difference?

If you’re sexually active, there are some precautions you should be aware of to decrease your risk of getting an STD or an STI. Sometimes STDs and STIs are silent, meaning you have no symptoms and have no idea you’re infected.

Sexually-transmitted diseases and illness are very common and costly to our nation’s health and economy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 20 percent of people in the U.S. have an STD or STI.

If you’re wondering what the difference is between the two, keep reading. In this article, you’ll learn about their similarities and differences.

What is an STD?

An STD is a sexually transmitted disease. Sometimes the term is used interchangeably with STI. No matter what you call it, both terms refer to diseases or infections you can contract during unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Sometimes STDs have signs and symptoms, like burning or discharge. Other times, you may have no idea you’re infected and can pass the STD on to all your sexual partners. If you’re unsure whether you might have an STD, you can come by any of the Care Net Pregnancy Centers of Albuquerque’s convenient locations for free STD screening and testing.

What is an STI?

An STI is a sexually transmitted infection. You can get an STI in much the same way you get an STD: through unprotected sex. Sexually transmitted diseases and infections can damage your reproductive system and cause other long-term health consequences for both men and women.

If you’ve had unprotected sex – especially with multiple partners – it’s smart to get tested. It’s better to be safe than sorry if you have an STD or STI without any symptoms before more damage is done to your health.

free STD testing blood test
A free health screening and free STD testing can discover whether you have a sexually transmitted disease or illness.

How do you know if you have an STD or STI?

If you’ve had unprotected sex at any time, you’re at risk for an STD or STI. Any unprotected sexual contact – vaginal, anal, oral – puts you at serious risk. Not all people who get a sexually transmitted disease or illness know they have one. That’s why using protection every time you have sex is important for protecting your health.

Sexually transmitted diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. They move from one person to the next through blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. You won’t always know you or your partner have an STD or STI since they don’t always produce symptoms.

STD and STI symptoms

Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases and illnesses can vary. Sometimes people confused the signs of an STD or STI with something else and can ignore it. Other times, there may be no symptoms present at all. Chlamydia is one of the STDs that rarely gives warning signs to the infected person. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is another STD that can act silent in your body. Most women find out they have it during their annual exams when a pap smear is taken for analysis.

If you do experience symptoms of an STD or STI, they might include:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge, bleeding, rash, or odor.
  • Discharge from the penis.
  • Fever.
  • Lower abdominal pain.
  • Pain during sex.
  • Sores or bumps on or in the genital, oral, or rectal regions.

Most common types of STDs/STIs

There are many types of sexually transmitted diseases and illnesses. Some of the most common for both men and women include HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes. HPV is one of the most dangerous, because it can cause oral and reproductive system cancers.

Since you won’t always have symptoms, testing is important. Care Net Pregnancy Centers of Albuquerque can give you peace of mind with a free screening and a free test for two of the more common STIs, chlamydia and gonorrhea. If you test positive, we can provide a prescription or refer you to a physician or clinic that can provide treatment.

free STD testing issues
STDs and STIs can cause lasting health issues, including infertility.

How do you get an STD or STI?

Sexually transmitted diseases and illnesses are mostly transmitted person-to-person through sexual activity. Although not very common, they also can be transmitted through other types of intimate contact. For some STDs, like trichomoniasis, you can contract it through contact with damp or moist towels, wet clothing, and even toilet seats. Having multiple sexual partners also increases your risk.

Pregnant women can pass STDs and STIs to their babies through the womb or during birth when the babies enter the birth canal. If you are pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant, it’s important to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and illnesses for this reason.

Where can you get free STD/STI testing?

Sexually transmitted diseases and illnesses, if left untreated, can have long-lasting health consequences. Although women are more likely than men to suffer from ongoing issues, both men and women should be tested if they are sexually active.

Testing should especially be considered if you’ve had unprotected sex or have multiple sex partners. Most STDs and STIs are treatable and early detection are the best way to ensure a healthy outcome.

Contact Care Net today for safe and non-judgmental free STD testing for your best health.

date rape

Date Rape Facts You Need to Know

Date rape affects 35 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 24 in the U.S., according to data from the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN). Being forced to have sexual relations – even by someone you know – is never OK. Even when out on a date, you are not obligated to have intercourse, oral sex, or any other sexual contact with another person. Yet at least one-third of all female rape victims say they know their attacker. They may be casual dates, friends, or even boyfriends. Regardless of how you know them, it does not give them the right to force themselves on you sexually.

What is date rape?

Date rape is a form of sexual assault. It is the common name for describing what happens when you are forced into a sex act with someone you know. Rape is not a legally recognized term. If someone is arrested for date rape, they can be charged with anything from first-degree sexual assault to deviant sexual intercourse. It is possible for someone to face more than one criminal charge for committing date rape.

The reason date rape differs from other kinds of sexual assault is the victim always knows their attacker. Whether it is a classmate, a coworker, or your neighbor, if the person is known to you, the term date rape applies. Sometimes date rape is interchangeable with acquaintance rape. Regardless of which term you use, the meaning remains the same.

Date rape drugs and their role in sexual assault

Unfortunately, some women become victims of date rape because someone they know puts drugs in their food or drink that cause them to pass out or become non-responsive. It can be easy for your date to slip drugs into your drink when you are not looking that later make you confused or unable to fight back. Sometimes date rape drugs cause memory loss, so a woman may not even realize she was attacked or wonder if she consented to sex but does not remember doing so. This can make a woman hesitant to come forward to report the assault.

Some of the most common date rape drugs include:

  • Alcohol
  • Antidepressants
  • Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB)
  • Ketamine
  • Rohypnol (sometimes called Roofies)
  • Sleeping pills
  • Tranquilizers
Never leave your drink unattended or accept drinks from strangers.

What can you do to protect yourself from date rape?

There are several things that women can do to protect against becoming a victim of acquaintance rape. One of the most important measures you can take is to check out anyone you plan to date. If they are a stranger, meet in a public place of your choosing and make sure a friend or family member knows the location. Do not agree to “alone time” with someone you have just met or barely know. Agree to meet dates at a location, rather than having them pick you up. That way, if things do not go well or your instincts are throwing up red flags, you easily can leave. Other things you can do include:

  • Never accept drinks from someone you do not know.
  • Never leave your drink unattended.
  • Install a personal safety app like Virtual Halo on your smartphone.
  • Trust your instincts and leave if something does not feel right.

What to do if you are a victim of date rape

If you know or suspect you are the victim of sexual assault by an acquaintance, the first thing you must do is call the police. Preserving any evidence of the crime is critical for prosecution. The police will take you to a hospital or other medical facility that can conduct a sexual assault forensic exam – sometimes called a rape kit – to collect any evidence from your body, clothes, and other personal belongings.

We understand that coming forward as a rape victim can be difficult. Women often are judged, and then victim-blaming happens. Sexual assault is a crime and should be treated as such. In addition to collecting evidence, medical professionals can examine you for injury and prescribe medications that can help prevent you from contracting certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs) if the person who assaulted you did not use protection.

Hospitals and other medical examiners also can provide you with an emergency contraceptive designed to prevent pregnancy, called Plan B. Women who use it within 72 hours of being assaulted increase their chances of it working.

What happens if I become pregnant from date rape?

Sometimes women do not report when they are sexually assaulted, especially if their attacker is known to them. They may feel embarrassed or do not want to get the person in trouble. Another issue can be the woman does not realize she was raped because her attacker used a date rape drug. She may have memory loss or be confused about whether she consented.

Failing to report the date rape means the woman also probably did not seek medical treatment. This can have dire consequences if she later finds herself pregnant or infected with an STD or STI. Care Net Pregnancy Centers of Albuquerque offers free STD/STI testing. Women who suspect they have been raped and are worried about STDs and STIs can call to make an appointment or stop by any of our locations to get tested.

Women who suspect they may be pregnant can come in for free pregnancy testing and free limited pregnancy ultrasounds. If you are pregnant, our staff can walk you through your pregnancy options. We never judge, only help. Reach out to us today to get the help you need.

STD talk

Talking to Your Partner About STDs

It can be awkward to talk to your partner about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infections (STIs). There is no reason for embarrassment. If you are comfortable having sexual relations with a person, then you must be mature enough to discuss the difficult things that come along with being in a sexual relationship with someone. Candidly discussing your STD/STI status and insisting on testing is one of the smartest ways you can protect yourself and your partner.

Women who are thinking of becoming pregnant – or who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy – should get tested immediately. Certain STDs and STIs can cause birth defects or pass to the baby in utero or during vaginal birth. Knowing your status before pregnancy and delivery can help protect the baby.

Here are some practical tips on how to talk to your partner about STDs and STIs.

Know the facts

Before you can educate your partner on the importance of knowing your STD/STI status, you must understand the facts yourself. Spend some time researching the most common sexually transmitted diseases and infections and the negative consequences of contracting them. Make sure you investigate the best ways to prevent STDs/STIs. Not all birth control products, like condoms, prevent all sexually transmitted diseases.

Make sure you are using reliable sources for your information. Google is a great resource, but it does not guarantee all search results are from legitimate sources. One of the best places to find accurate information about STDs and STIs is on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. You also can find reliable data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Plan what to say

Once you have all your facts, plan how you want to talk with your partner. It may seem silly to write a speech and practice giving it. Difficult conversations require planning and preparation. Talking about STDs and STIs is one of the most important conversations you will ever have with your partner. You do not have to script your talk word-for-word. Write down a few key points about supporting information if your partner has questions. Having a list of nearby places to get tested should be a part of the discussion. Care Net offers free STD/STI screening at select locations.

Schedule the talk

Pick a time that works for you and your partner. Then, pick a quiet place where you are not likely to be disturbed while you talk. Ideally, you should have this conversation before you become sexually active with a new partner. If you already are sexually active, you may wish to refrain from any further relations until you can get tested.

Using “I” statements is one of the most effective ways to have a difficult conversation. It helps prevent the other person from feeling personally attacked. For instance, you could start the talk by saying “I want to relax and enjoy sex, but I won’t be able to do that until I know we are protected from STDs.”

Be a good listener

Good communication involves both listening and talking. Once you have presented your concerns and all supporting facts to your partner, take time to listen to what he or she has to say. If your partner has more questions that you cannot answer, that is the perfect time to pull out that list of resources you compiled. Offer to visit a clinic that offers free STD testing and consultations so that all your questions can be answered by knowledgeable professionals. If your partner refuses to discuss his or her STD/STI status and is not open to getting tested or using protection, you must make the difficult decision of whether you wish to be sexually involved with them.

Schedule the testing

If your partner agrees to get tested, the next step is to find a clinic that offers free STD/STI testing and schedule your visit. You can agree to go together or separately, whichever you and your partner feel most comfortable doing. Care Net offers free testing services. Contact us to schedule your appointment today. Following initial testing, you will require a second appointment 2 to 7 days later to discuss test results. If you or your partner test positive, we can refer you to a treatment center.

STD birth defects baby

STDs and Birth Defects: Protect Your Baby

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause birth defects and other problems for a developing baby. It is very important that women – and their partners – get tested for the most common STDs/STIs once they confirm their pregnancy. When left untreated, STDs and STIs can pass from the mother to her baby, causing serious problems. Birth defects like blindness, deafness, and bone deformities are just some of the ways sexually transmitted diseases and infections harm your baby’s development. If you suspect or know you are pregnant, ask your care provider to test you. Some STDs and STIs have silent symptoms, meaning you never know you have them until it is too late.

Can STDs hurt my baby’s development?

Prenatal care always should include STD testing. STDs and STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and syphilis can pass to your baby during pregnancy or delivery. Your baby can experience short or long-term health problems once infected. Some of the most common problems include:

  • Blindness
  • Blood infections
  • Brain damage
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Deafness

Babies who are infected with an STD or STI while in the womb also are at higher risk for premature birth and stillbirth. It is not just the baby who is affected by STDs and STIs. Mothers can experience higher rates of miscarriage if their infection is left undetected and untreated. Birth mothers also may suffer from other health complications. Getting tested for STDs is the best way you can help protect yourself and your baby while he or she is developing in your womb.

STD birth defects baby

Which STDs cause the most harm to my baby?

Women are more likely than men to experience long-term health consequences after contracting an STD. Damage to the reproductive system is just one of them. Passing that infection along to your baby can have even more dire outcomes. Let’s look at the six most common STDs and explore the complications they can bring to your pregnancy.

  • Chlamydia is linked to pre-term labor and low birth weight. You can pass it to your baby during vaginal delivery. When detected early, it can be treated with an antibiotic, and measures can be taken to protect your baby during delivery.
  • Gonorrhea, when left untreated,can cause premature birth and low birth weight. It can be passed to your baby during vaginal delivery. Doctors can take precautions during delivery to help reduce the spread of transmission.
  • Hepatitis B causes the greatest risk to your baby if it is contracted shortly before delivery. Transmission to your baby during a vaginal delivery is preventable if infants are treated immediately after birth.
  • Hepatitis C can cause low birth weight and increase the risk of premature birth. Babies also can develop a type of liver infection when exposed in the womb.
  • HIV can pass from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy, labor, and vaginal delivery. Breast-feeding also is a risk for babies when the mother has HIV. When detected early, steps can be taken to help reduce transmission.
  • Syphilis is linked to premature birth, stillbirth, and in some rare cases, death after birth. Untreated babies have a high risk for complications involving several organs.

How are STDs treated during pregnancy?

Some STDs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can be treated and cured during pregnancy with antibiotics. STIs caused by viruses, like hepatitis B and C and HIV, have no cure and can only be monitored with the hope of reducing transmission during pregnancy and birth. For instance, antiviral medications are approved for use in pregnant women with HIV to help reduce the chance of transmitting the infection to their babies.

If you test positive for an STD or an STI, you will require close monitoring by your healthcare provider during treatment to ensure your safety and that of your baby.

Preventing STDs and STIs

The only 100 percent effective way to prevent an STD or an STI is to abstain from sex. If you are in a committed relationship with a monogamous partner, you can both get tested to ensure you are safe. Avoid sexual activity until you have confirmation you are disease-free, especially if you are planning to become pregnant. Using condoms can help reduce the transmission of some STDs and STIs, but not all.

Where to get tested

Care Net Albuquerque offers free STD/STI testing for women and their partners at four locations. Contact us to schedule your appointment at the location that is most convenient for you. You will require a follow-up appointment 2 to 7 days after your testing to discuss the results. If your results are positive, our team will refer you and your partner to a treatment center. If you are pregnant and test positive, you must share those results with your obstetrician so they can take preventative measures to reduce transmission to your baby and treat you for the STD/STI if treatment is available.

STD testing

Top 4 Reasons to Get Tested for STIs / STDs(And How to Get Tested for Free)

When you make the decision to become sexually active, certain consequences come with the choice. One of them is the possibility of becoming pregnant. The other is the chance you may contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

STDs, also sometimes called Sexually Transmitted Illnesses (STIs), pose serious health risks to both men and women. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of men and women with an STD continues to rise.  For women who are pregnant, having an STD can be harmful to the baby’s development. Moms who are infected can transmit the disease to the baby in utero. Other risks include:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Birth defects
  • Death (newborn and mother)

STDs can affect the development of a baby’s eyes, lungs, and liver, causing irreversible damage. If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, it is important to get tested for STDs.

How are STDs spread?

STDs are spread through unprotected vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Even if you are using condoms, some STDs are spread through close contact with the skin and you can still contract them. Genital herpes and syphilis are both examples of highly-contagious STDs, even when using protection.

Other STIs, like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Gonorrhea, are spread by contact with bodily fluids during sexual intercourse.

Types of STDs and STD symptoms

There are several types of STDs. Some of the most common STDs in the U.S. include:

  • Chlamydia – There are usually no symptoms for men or women with Chlamydia, which is what makes it a dangerous STD. If women are symptomatic, they can experience vaginal discharge, burning with urination, lower abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, pain during intercourse, and bleeding between menstrual periods. For men, they will have a discharge from the penis, painful urination, and pain or swelling of the testicles. If left untreated, it can cause infertility in both men and women. It can also make women more susceptible to developing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).
  • Gonorrhea – Women who have this STD can experience a yellow or bloody vaginal discharge and burning when they pee. Men will have a yellowish-white discharge from their penis and will also have painful urination. Men may or may not have swollen and painful testicles when they are infected. Sterility is a consequence for both men and women who are not treated for this STD.
  • Syphilis – This STD attacks in several stages. In the first stage, you can experience swollen sores that are not painful. You will usually break out in these sores in the area where the infection entered your body. If it is undetected, the second wave of symptoms includes rash, fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, and headaches. You may also experience weight loss, muscle aches, and extreme fatigue. If this STI gets to the third stage without treatment, it can lead to loss of coordination, paralysis, and gradual blindness. If a woman is pregnant with syphilis, it can cause the baby to die in utero.
  • HIV/AIDS – This STI produces a fever, sore throat, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes in both men and women. Without treatment, it will eventually cause your immune system to break down. The virus can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy.
  • Genital Herpes – Painful ulcers are the number one sign you have this STD. They usually appear at the site of infection. You also may have a fever and swollen glands, and experience pain during sex.
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – This STD causes genital warts that appear in a cauliflower shape. Sometimes people are completely unaware they are infected because they do not have any noticeable symptoms. For women, it may cause vulvar itching and pain. HPV is a contributing factor in developing reproductive cancer.
  • Hepatitis B – The most tell-tale sign of this STI is that it can cause a yellowing of the skin known as jaundice. You also may become fatigued, have dark urine and gray-colored stools, and experience loss of appetite and joint pain.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – Lower abdominal pain that is like menstrual cramping is the main symptom of this STD in women. It also can cause fever, irregular periods, painful sex, and painful urination. PID only affects women. However, it can be caused by infections carried by men. PID can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Women are more likely than men to suffer from long-term health consequences from STDs. Both sexually active men and women should consider testing, especially if you have multiple sexual partners or are involved in unsafe sexual behaviors.

Blood Test, STD testing

What tests detect STDs?

The type of STD test you get depends on the STI. Testing can require a urine sample, a swab of the vaginal or anal area, a blood test, or a physical exam. For instance, HPV is detected during a routine gynecological exam that involves a visual inspection and swabbing the area for a pap smear.

If you are diagnosed with an STD, treatment options are available. Many STDs are curable when caught early. Some STDs require treatment with antibiotics. STIs caused by viruses (like HIV/AIDS) can be managed with medications, but not cured.

Top 4 reasons to get tested

When you are sexually active, STDs are a fact of life. Even if it has been a while since you were last sexually active, if you have ever had unprotected sex, you should be tested for STDs. Many people with STDs are unaware they are infected because they have no symptoms or confuse their symptoms with something else. Here are the top 5 reasons to get free STD testing today.

  1. It protects your health
    STDs can live in your body without ever signaling they are there. You can unknowingly infect others. If left undetected and untreated, STDs can lead to serious health conditions like cancer and infertility.
  2. It is easy
    STD testing is not painful and some of the testing can be performed quickly. Some testing requires a blood or urine sample, while others may require a swab of the mouth, anus, or vagina.
  3. It is smart
    Most STDs are treatable. The sooner you know whether you are infected, the sooner you can begin treatment.
  4. It is necessary
    Early detection is the key to successful STD treatment plans. You can be walking around without symptoms, not realizing you are posing a health risk to yourself and others. Getting tested is the only way to know for sure.

Where can I get free STD testing near me?

Care Net Pregnancy Centers offer free STD testing for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea at locations in and around Albuquerque. Making an STD testing appointment with us is easy and confidential. Call 505-880-0882 to schedule an appointment for testing at our Albuquerque location or visit our Contact us page for additional locations. A follow-up appointment will be scheduled for 2 to 7 days after your testing. At the second consultation, we will provide your testing results and discuss options for treatment if you test positive for any STDs. Same-day appointments and walk-ins are welcome.

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The information and graphics contained on this site are for informational and educational purposes only. This site is designed to promote broad knowledge of various pregnancy or sexual health topics and general understanding concerning pregnancy. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice, or professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Pregnancy and other health issues need to be diagnosed by your physician or other qualified health care provider in person. Home tests and online discussions do not qualify as diagnosis or advice for treatment. Make an appointment with one of our center medical team or with your physician to discuss any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment, and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Follow your medical provider’s instructions and never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on a website or social media.