Get Tested - American Sexual Health Association

Get Tested

Most people think they would know if they had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) . . . wrong!

The truth is many of STIs have no signs or symptoms in the majority of people infected. Or they have mild signs that can be easily overlooked. This is why the term “disease” (as in STD) is starting to be replaced by infection (or STI). The only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested.

Lots of people are confused about getting tested for STIs. For example, you may think your annual medical check-up will include tests for STIs, especially if your healthcare provider knows you are sexually active. The fact is that some providers might test for some infections when you come in for a regular check-up, while others do not test for any STI unless you ask them to.

If you’ve had unprotected sex, have a new partner (or more than one partner), or for any reason are worried you have been exposed to an STI, talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested be tested for these leading common STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, herpes, HPV, syphilis and trichomoniasis. If your healthcare provider feels you do not need to be checked for some of these, you will at least know which ones you were tested for and which ones you were not.

How do STI tests work?

Getting tested can be quick and easy. Depending on what you are being tested for, your provider may take a blood sample, a swab, or ask you to pee in a cup. Easy! Here’s an idea of what to expect:

Chlamydia
How the test is done: Swab of genital area or urine sample
What you also need to know: If you have had oral or anal sex, let your healthcare provider know this also. These sites may be infected, but vaginal or urine samples may not be positive.

Gonorrhea
How the test is done: Swab of genital area or urine sample
What you also need to know: Like with gonorrhea, if you have had oral or anal sex, let your healthcare provider know this also. These sites may be infected, but vaginal or urine samples may not be positive

HIV
How the test is done: Blood test or swab from inside of mouth
What you also need to know: Confidential and anonymous testing options are available in many clinics

Genital herpes(no symptoms)
How the test is done: Blood test (drawn from arm or a fingerstick)
What you also need to know: Be sure to ask for a type-specific IgG test (not an IgM test)

Genital herpes (with symptoms)
How the test is done: Swab of affected area; if at first negative for herpes, follow later with blood test to make sure.
What you also need to know: Must be done as soon as possible; “viral culture” test not as accurate after 48 hours. A negative culture does not mean that you do not have genital herpes.

Syphilis
How the test is done: Blood test, or sample taken from a sore.
What you also need to know: The CDC recommends all pregnant women be tested for syphilis

Trichomoniasis
How the test is done: Swab of infected area, physical exam or sample of discharge.
What you also need to know: “Trich” is harder to detect in men than in women

HPV (genital warts)
How the test is done: Visual diagnosis
What you also need to know: Warts can occur in both men and women.

HPV (cervical cancer)
How the test is done: If Pap test result is abnormal, HPV DNA test and a biopsy may be done
What you also need to know: Pap tests detect cervical cell changes, not HPV. An abnormal test is often caused by HPV infection. No test available for men for these types of HPV.

What tests are recommended for you?

What should you get tested for? When? How often? Below are testing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While these guidelines are general ones, you are an individual. Your healthcare provider may have different recommendations based on your individual health status and history, of course.

Who should get tested for:

STDs/STIs in general
CDC guidelines don’t suggest routine STD/STI testing if you don’t have any symptoms. However, CDC does recommend routine testing for men who have sex with men. If you are entering a new relationship and are interested in general testing, know that not all doctors perform the same tests for STD/STIs. Learn which tests you need and which you might have to ask for.

Chlamydia
CDC recommends yearly chlamydia testing of all sexually active women age 25 or younger, as well as older women with risk factors for chlamydial infections (those who have a new sex partner or multiple sex partners), and all pregnant women. Men should speak with their healthcare provider if they are at risk for chlamydia and if testing is recommended. Testing is a simple as peeing in a cup.

Gonorrhea
CDC recommends early gonorrhea screening for all sexually active women younger than 25 years, as well as older women with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection.

HIV
The CDC recommends at least one HIV test for everyone aged 13 to 64 who visits a doctor. Most HIV is transmitted by the 25% of infected people who do not realize they are infected.

Cervical cancer
Pap tests, as a cervical cancer screening tool, are recommend for women beginning at age 21. Women age 30 and over are recommended to have an HPV test along with their Pap.

Breast cancer
CDC recommends mammograms for women every one or two years starting at age 40.

Or another way to look at screening is . . .

What testing is recommended for . . .?

Women age 25 or younger
CDC recommends yearly chlamydia testing of all sexually active women age 25 or younger.

Women age 21 and older
Pap tests, as a cervical cancer screening tool, are recommend for women beginning at age 21.

Men who have sex with men
Men who have sex with men should talk to their healthcare providers about general STD/STI screening.

Everyone age 13 to 64
The CDC recommends at least one HIV test for everyone aged 13 to 64 who visits a doctor. Most HIV is transmitted by the 25% of infected people who do not realize they are infected.

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