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! Keep reading to get an idea of what to expect:
Chlamydia: Swab of genital area or urine sample For chlamydia and 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.
Gonorrhea: Swab of genital area or urine sample.
HIV: Blood test or swab from inside of mouth. Confidential and anonymous testing options are available in many clinics.
Genital herpes(no symptoms): Blood test (drawn from arm or a fingerstick). Be sure to ask for a type-specific IgG test (not an IgM test).
Genital herpes(with symptoms): Swab of affected area; if at first negative for herpes, follow later with blood test to make sure. 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: Blood test, or sample taken from a sore. The CDC recommends all pregnant women be tested for syphilis.
Trichomoniasis: Swab of infected area, physical exam or sample of discharge. “Trich” is harder to detect in men than in women.
HPV (genital warts): Visual diagnosis. Warts can occur in both men and women.
HPV (cervical cancer): Starting at age 21, women should be tested with a Pap test, which looks for cervical cell changes associated with “high-risk” types of HPV associated with cervical cancer. Starting at age 30, women should get a HPV test as well. No test available for men for these types of HPV.
Where can I get tested?
You can talk to your healthcare provider about testing, or you can search for a clinic near you using the search tool below (provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Just enter your zip code to find a local testing site.