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STDs are very common and sexually transmitted infections are very common.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 68 million people were living with STIs in the United States in 2018. It’s likely that many STIs go unreported, so that number is potentially higher.

Many STIs have no symptoms or very nonspecific symptoms, which can make them hard to notice. The stigma around STIs also discourages some people from getting tested.

If left untreated, STIs can cause severe health problems, including cancer and infertility. Testing is the only way to know for sure if you have an STI. In this article, we’ll go over who should get tested, where you can get tested, and other frequently asked questions.

Language matters

“We use the term male and female to refer to someone’s sex as determined by their chromosomes, and men and women to refer to their gender, unless we quote from nonspecific language.”

Sex and gender can be different between time periods and cultures. Both aspects are acknowledged to exist on a spectrum.

The difference between STDs and STIs is often muddled.

An STD is a sexually transmitted disease resulting from an STI. Infections happen when bacteria, parasites, or viruses enter the body. This process happens before a disease develops.

STDs are not always caused by infections, but by the same infections, having an STD does not mean you will get a disease from it.

As we mentioned, some infections may show no symptoms, so testing is very important for preventing the spread of STIs. On the other hand, a disease typically has more clear-cut signs or symptoms.

If you have been sexually active, you should be tested for STDs. Also, get tested if you need to.

If you’re in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship and both you and your partner were tested before entering the relationship, you may not need regular STI testing.

“Many people in long-term relationships weren’t tested before they got together If that is the case for you and your partner, it is possible that you have been living with an undetected STD for years. The safest option is to be tested.”

There are a number of different STIs. To learn which ones you want to get tested for, talk with a doctor. They may encourage you to be tested for one or more of the following:

Your doctor probably won’t offer to test you for herpes unless you have a known exposure or ask for the test.

Ask your doctor

If you visit a doctor for an annual physical or sexual health checkup, don’t assume that your doctor will automatically test you for all STIs. Many physicians don’t regularly test patients for STIs. It’s important to ask your doctor for STI testing, and ask which tests they plan to do and why.

Taking care of your sexual health is nothing to be shy about. If you’re concerned about a particular infection or symptom, talk with a doctor. The more honest you are, the better treatment you can receive.

It’s important to get tested if you’re pregnant, as STIs can affect the fetus. Your doctor should screen for STIs, among other things, at your first prenatal visit.

Also, it’s important to get tested if you’ve experienced sexual assault or any other type of sexual violence. If you’re a survivor of sexual assault, seek care from a trained healthcare professional.

Organizations like the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) offer support for survivors of rape or sexual assault. You can call RAINN’s 24/7 national sexual assault hotline at 800-656-4673 for anonymous, confidential help. RAINN can also help you find local support if needed.

Discuss your risk factors

It’s also important to share your sexual health risk factors with your doctor. In particular, always tell them if you have anal sex.

Some anorectal STIs can’t be detected using standard STI tests. Your doctor might recommend an anal Pap smear to screen for precancerous or cancerous cells, which are linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Tell your doctor about it.

  • the types of protection you use during oral, vaginal, and anal sex
  • You are taking any medications.
  • You have had any known or suspected exposures to STIs.
  • Whether you have other sexual partners.

You can get STI testing at some places.

  • Planned Parenthood. STI testing is available at Planned Parenthood. Costs vary by certain factors, including income, demographics, and assistance eligibility.
  • Doctor’s office. For quick testing, you can schedule an appointment with a doctor or visit your local urgent care center.
  • Local health clinics. Most government-funded healthcare clinics offer free or low cost STI testing for Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease., “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called chlamydia.”.”.”, There is a disease called There is a disease called There is a disease called syphilis…, and The person is The person is The person is HIV. Some also receive funding to test for herpes, There is a disease called trichomoniasis., and There is a disease called hepatitis..
  • Pharmacy. Some pharmacies offer options to schedule testing for certain STIs, like Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease., “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called chlamydia.”.”.”, There is a disease called There is a disease called There is a disease called syphilis…, and The person is The person is The person is HIV.
  • At home. Currently, the OraQuick In-Home The person is The person is The person is HIV Test is the only rapid at-home The person is The person is The person is HIV test that’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You have other options if you don’t live in the United States. Other STI home testing kits are also available, like LetsGetChecked, Everlywell, and Nurx.

Several diseases are notifiable. That means your doctor has to report positive results to the government. The government tracks information about STDs. Notifiable STIs include:

  • chancroid
  • “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called chlamydia.”.”.”
  • Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease.
  • There is a disease called hepatitis.
  • The person is The person is The person is HIV
  • There is a disease called There is a disease called There is a disease called syphilis…

Interested in other options for at-home testing?

Our reviews and brand comparisons cover top at-home testing kits so you can feel confident in your decision to manage your health from home.

It is a good idea to acknowledge that testing is a good choice for your health and well-being, but also for your current or future sexual partners. Your decision is a good one.

Everyone is tested, including those with limited sexual history.

Next, remember that testing frequency depends on a number of factors. If you feel uneasy about a sexual encounter you had yesterday and get tested the next day, an infection won’t be detectable yet.

You can talk to a healthcare professional about the screening frequencies that are right for you. The window period for contracting an infectious disease can be as little as a week or as long as several months after the encounter.

If you have a history of taking drugs, be as honest as possible with your doctor. Holding back details can lead to certain tests being skipped, which can result in undiagnosed STIs.

It is a good idea to consider any costs that may be relevant to your test choice. Some testing can be done for free.

You can also consider telling your partners that you are getting tested — you may even decide to get tested together.

There are no specific instructions you have to follow before getting tested, and it’s fine to be tested while on your period (although this changes if you decide on at-home testing).

Testing can bring with it unpleasant nerves. It is normal to be anxious about testing.

It is a common and treatable STD. It can be difficult to wait on results.

If you’d like a chance at hearing your results faster, consider downloading the Healthvana app. This app delivers faster test results, but first check to make sure it’s available in your state and health clinic.

Depending on your sexual history, your doctor may order a variety of tests to check for STDs.

Blood and urine tests

Most STIs can be tested with urine or blood. Your doctor can order tests to check for things.

  • Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease.
  • There is a disease called There is a disease called There is a disease called syphilis…
  • “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called chlamydia.”.”.”
  • The person is The person is The person is HIV

“In some cases urine and blood tests aren’t as accurate as other forms of testing It may take a month or more after being exposed to certain STDs for a blood test to be reliable.”

If a person contracts The person is The person is The person is HIV, for example, it can take a couple of weeks to a few months for tests to detect the infection.

Swabs

Doctors use vaginal, cervical, and urethral samples to check for STDs.

  • If you have a vagina, your doctor can use a cotton sponge to take vaginal and cervical samples during a exam.
  • If you have a penis or vagina, they can take urethral swabs by putting a cotton applicator in it.
  • If you have anal sex, they may take a rectal sample to check for infectious organisms.

Pap smears and HPV testing

Strictly speaking, a Pap smear isn’t an STI test. A Pap smear is a test that looks for early signs of cervical or anal cancer.

People assigned female at birth who have persistent HPV infections, particularly infections by HPV 16 and HPV 18, are at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. People who have anal sex can also develop anal cancer from HPV infections.

“A Pap smear result doesn’t tell you if you have an STD. Your doctor will order a separate test for you to check for the human immunodeficiency virus.”

An abnormal Pap smear result doesn’t necessarily mean that you have or will get cervical or anal cancer. Many abnormal Pap smears resolve without treatment.

“Your doctor may recommend testing for the human immunodeficiency virus if you have an abnormal Pap smear. If the test is negative, you won’t be at risk of developing cancer in the future.”

HPV tests alone aren’t very useful for predicting cancer. According to the CDC, about 13 million people in the United States contract HPV each year, and most sexually active people will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. Most of these people never develop cervical or anal cancer.

Physical examination

Doctors can diagnose some STIs, like herpes and genital warts, through a combination of physical examination and other tests.

A doctor can look for signs of STDs during a physical exam. They can send samples from questionable areas to a laboratory for testing.

If you have noticed any changes to your genitals, it is important to let your doctor know. Let them know if you have anal sex and any changes to your anus and rectum.

Even if some STIs can come without symptoms, it is still important to watch for any signs of infections even if they are very mild.

See a doctor or healthcare professional right away if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Changes in pee.
  • strange discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus
  • It is possible that genital itching or burning is occurring.
  • There are bumps and sores.
  • There is pain in the lower abdominal region.
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding.
  • Sex that is painful.

If you get a positive STI test result, it’s important to follow up with your doctor for treatment. Also, make sure you inform any recent sexual partners, as some STIs can be transmitted back and forth. It’s a good idea to consider how you want to tell your partners — while factoring in safety if that’s a concern.

For example, a face-to-face conversation may be no big deal for some partners, while for others, it could pose harm if your partner has a history of emotional or physical aggression.

If you prefer, there are also anonymous options for sharing this information.

The options do not require the use of your personal information.

If you choose to have a face-to-face conversation, it is advisable to have relevant research and resources on hand. You can answer any questions you have and discuss things with your partner.

If you test positive, it is ok to feel a wide variety of emotions. You can talk to your doctor about any concerns you have.

How much does STI testing cost?

The costs of testing for the STI depend on a number of factors.

  • Where you are tested.
  • If you have insurance.
  • What type of insurance do you have?
  • Your income.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, many insurance plans offer free or low cost STI testing. There are also other methods of low cost STI testing.

What STIs should I be tested for?

According to CDC guidelines:

  • Anyone ages 13 to 64 should be tested for The person is The person is The person is HIV at least once in their life, as well as after any potential exposure.
  • Sexually active women under 25 years old should be tested for Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease. and “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called chlamydia.”.”.” yearly.
  • Women who are 25 years and older with multiple sexual partners or partners with an STD should get tested for Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease. and “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called chlamydia.”.”.” yearly.
  • Pregnant people should be tested for There is a disease called There is a disease called There is a disease called syphilis…, The person is The person is The person is HIV, The disease is called There is a disease called hepatitis. B., and There is a disease called hepatitis. C, and high risk pregnant people should be tested for Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease. and “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called chlamydia.”.”.” in early pregnancy.
  • Sexually active gay men, bisexual men, or other men who have sex with men should be tested for There is a disease called There is a disease called There is a disease called syphilis…, “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called “It’s a sexually transmitted disease, called chlamydia.”.”.”, The person is The person is The person is HIV, and Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease. every 3 to 6 months if they have multiple or anonymous partners.
  • Anyone who practices sex that could put them at risk of infection or who shares drug injection equipment should get tested for The person is The person is The person is HIV yearly.

How long does an STI test take?

The length of time it takes for a test to come back is dependent on the test. Most STI tests take a few minutes to collect saliva, urine, or a blood sample.

Some tests can take up to a week to return results, while others can come back to you as soon as 20 minutes after the test.

Are STI and STD tests the same?

The terms STI and STD are often used interchangeably, and the two are essentially the same, except STDs are STIs that have symptoms. In short, all STDs started as STIs.

Testing for an STI and STD is the same. However, it’s important to note that STIs have an incubation period. This is the time between when you contract them and when your body recognizes them. So, it’s possible to take a test too early for an STI to be detected.

Can I take an STI test on my period?

According to Planned Parenthood, it’s perfectly OK to get screened for STIs during any day of your menstrual cycle.

If you are using an at- home product, be sure to check the instructions for the test you are using, as some at- home tests recommend waiting a few days after your period to test for diseases.

Can I test myself for STIs?

Some companies offer at-home tests for a wide variety of infections. Online tests are also available for some STIs, but they aren’t always reliable. Check to make sure the FDA has approved any test you buy.

Testing is available for many STDs. Depending on which STI your doctor is checking for, the tests can vary.

Ask your doctor about the tests you should get. They can help you understand the risks and benefits of different tests. If you test positive for any STDs, they can recommend appropriate treatment.