Many people think they would know if they had a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The truth is many STIs have no signs or symptoms in the majority of people infected. Or they have mild signs that can be easily overlooked. The only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested.
Anyone who is sexually active can get an STI. 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. While some providers might include STI tests as part of a regular check-up, others don’t test for any STIs unless you ask them to—so make sure to ask!
If you don’t have a regular healthcare provider, you can search for a clinic that offers testing near you. Just enter your zip code to find a local testing site.
How do STI tests work?
Getting tested can be quick and easy. Depending on what you’re 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 for some more common STIs.
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.
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. The healthcare provider you visit may have different recommendations based on your individual health status and history.
CDC recommends yearly chlamydia testing of all sexually active women younger than 25 years, as well as older women with certain risk factors (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.
Podcast: Understanding STI Testing
We have an abundance of accurate, relatively inexpensive tests for STIs but the trick is engaging patients and health professionals so the proper tests are given to the right individuals.
In this episode of ASHA’s Sex+Health podcast, listen to J. Dennis Fortenberry, MD, MS, professor of pediatrics and medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, discuss barriers to STI testing and what we can do to empower patients and providers alike.
Talk to a Partner about Getting Tested
See how easy it can be in this video from Planned Parenthood.