Where Can You Get Tested for STIs?

Testing for STIs will go a long way toward keeping you—and your partner—healthy. Here are the places you can go to, how often to get tested, and what to expect.

Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) isn't the most pleasant thing in the world. But if you're sexually active, it's a necessary part of life. While many STIs have no symptoms, some can cause serious health issues if left untreated. You don't need to feel embarrassed or afraid to get tested. You're being responsible for your and your partner's health.

How often should you be getting tested for STIs? And when you're ready to get tested, where do you go? Here's a list of your options and what to expect.

How Often Should You Be Tested for STIs?

The answer to this question depends on the test, your age, and your sexual activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults and adolescents, ages 13 to 64, be tested for HIV at least once. In addition, the CDC recommends that:

  • All sexually active women under 25 years old be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year. If you are 25 years and older with certain risk factors—like new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has an STI—you should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.
  • Anyone who is pregnant be tested for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C early in pregnancy. Those at risk for infection should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea early in the pregnancy. Repeat testing may be needed in some cases.
  • All sexually active people who have sex with men be tested:
    At least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Those who have multiple or anonymous partners should be tested more frequently (every 3 to 6 months).
  • A minimum of once a year for HIV or more if multiple partners are involved (every 3 to 6 months).
  • At least once a year for hepatitis C if living with HIV.
  • Anyone who engages in sexual behaviors that could place them at risk for infection or shares injection drug equipment be tested for HIV at least once a year.

If you've had oral or anal sex, talk to your healthcare provider about throat and rectal testing options.

What Are STI Symptoms?

Some STIs are silent, at least at first, so you won't know if you have them. That's why it's important to get tested now and then, especially if you have more than one sexual partner (or if your partner has more than one). If you do have symptoms, according to MedlinePlus, a source of the National Library of Medicine, they will vary depending on the STI. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Painful urination
  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal discharge that has an unusual odor
  • Vaginal itching
  • Discharge or itching from the penis
  • Sores or bumps in the genital or rectal area

Where Can You Get Tested?

You can get tested at the office of your ob-gyn or primary healthcare provider. You can also be tested by your local health department or in a community health clinic, such as Planned Parenthood. In addition, many walk-in medical offices or urgent care clinics also offer STI tests, with no appointment necessary.

Which testing site is right for you?

If you think you might get a positive test result or you're experiencing symptoms, seeing your ob-gyn or primary healthcare provider might be best, Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the center for obstetrics and gynecology at Orlando Health in Florida, told Health. If you test positive and need follow-up care or a prescription, your healthcare provider can give that to you after the test.

On the other hand, if you're feeling fine but want to know your STI status, any of the locations listed above can help you.

At-home STI test kits

You could also get an at-home test kit depending on your comfort level and which STIs you're testing for. According to MedlinePlus, these home tests will test for:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Hepatitis C

The test kit will provide the tools you need, usually a lancet for pricking your finger to get a blood sample, a swab for an oral sample, or a sterile cup for a urine sample. You collect the specimen, send it in, and wait for your results.

According to the CDC, you can also test for HIV at home. You collect the specimen and, depending on the type of test, either get the results at home or after sending the sample to a lab.

It's always a good idea to contact your healthcare provider, even when doing a home test, especially if you have any symptoms. They may be able to recommend solutions for specific symptoms, like itching. They'll also already be alerted if your test does come back positive and you require a prescription.

Depending on the tests you get—whether at home or a healthcare facility—you'll typically find the results within days. For HIV home tests, you'll have your answer in about 20 minutes. Ask your healthcare provider or tester what the time frame is, so you'll know when to expect to hear from them—or when you have to check back in with them.

STI Testing Methods

According to MedlinePlus, how they test for STIs will depend on which ones you're getting tested for.

  • Blood sample: You may need a blood sample if you're being tested for HIV and syphilis. HIV can also be tested with an oral swab and sometimes via urine. A blood test can also sometimes be used to diagnose herpes.
  • Urine test: You can pee in a sterile cup (that they provide for you) if you're being tested for trichomoniasis. Healthcare providers can sometimes test for gonorrhea and chlamydia with a urine test.
  • Cervical swab: To diagnose HPV, a cervical swab is required. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can also be diagnosed this way.
  • Lesion swab: This will test for herpes.
  • Urethral swab: This can be used to test for gonorrhea and chlamydia.

How Much Does STI Testing Cost?

The cost of STI screening varies depending on where you get tested, whether STI tests are covered by your health insurance plan, and the exact tests you need. Some community clinics offer testing on a sliding fee scale based on your income—and depending on your income, you might even qualify for free testing. If you're unsure what your insurance will cover, call them beforehand. You can also ask them how to locate clinics that accept your insurance. However, the cost will depend on the brand and how many STIs it tests if you're looking for home test kits.

Summary

Your sexual health is an important part of your overall health. Keeping a check on STIs will go a long way toward keeping you—and your partner—healthy. And while it may seem embarrassing at first to talk to your healthcare provider about these issues, make it a regular part of your annual checkup (and between them if necessary).

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