Regular STI testing can play an important role in helping a person stay healthy when they are sexually active. Testing can take place in a doctor’s office, clinic, or, in some cases, at home.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) primarily transmit through sexual contact. A person can contract them through anal, vaginal, oral, or manual sexual intercourse.

STI testing can help a person find out if they have an infection. Many infections require treatment to either cure the infection or help prevent the condition from worsening or recurring.

This article discusses STI testing, how to do it, which STIs a person can test for, and more.

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STI testing refers to screenings that test for the presence of a sexually transmitted infection. STI testing may require a sample of urine, blood, tissue, or saliva.

To do this, a person may have to have a blood test, provide a urine sample, or provide a swab of the inside of their cheek or genitals.

Doctors often perform STI tests in the office and send samples to a lab. A person can test themselves at home with special STI testing kits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2018 an estimated 1 in 5 people in the United States had an STI on any given day.

STI testing or screenings can help a person take better control of their health and give them peace of mind. Testing is available to check for a large range of STIs, including:

Some STIs, such as chlamydia, do not cause noticeable symptoms for months or years.

This means a person can be a carrier without knowing it and pass it along to others. Untreated STIs can also cause problems. For example, untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in females.

A sexually active person should consider regular testing, particularly if their risk for contracting an STI may be higher.

Having multiple sexual partners and not using barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, can increase a person’s risk of getting an STI.

A person should also get tested for STIs if they become pregnant. This is because STIs can cause pregnancy complications.

A person should also get tested if they experience any of these common STI symptoms:

A person who is concerned about a recent sexual encounter should consider getting tested.

However, testing can take a few days to over a week to show positive results. Therefore, a person should wait at least 1 week before taking a test.

Anyone who is sexually active should get tested regularly. Some university health centers recommend people get tested at least once a year for common STIs and HIV.

It is also a good idea to get tested after sexual activity with a new partner.

The CDC provides the following recommendations for sexually active people:

  • All females under 25: Yearly gonorrhea and chlamydia testing.
  • All people over 25 with risk factors such as multiple partners or confirmed STI in a partner: Yearly gonorrhea and chlamydia testing.
  • All pregnant people: Syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C tests early in pregnancy.
  • All gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men:
    • syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea tests at least once a year
    • HIV test at least once a year
    • hepatitis C test at least once a year of living with HIV
  • People who have multiple sexual partners, engage in sex without a barrier method, or share drug needles: Yearly HIV testing.
  • People who engage in anal or oral sex: Ask for anal and throat testing options.
  • Anyone between the ages of 13–64: A HIV test at least once in their life.

A person can get tested for most common STIs, including HIV. The following shows some common STIs that a person can get tested for include the following:

STISymptomsTesting procedure When to get tested How the test works
Chlamydia• Vaginal or penile discharge.
• Burning or pain during urination.
• Pain or swelling in testicles.
Anal discharge.
Rectal pain and bleeding.
A urine test or vaginal swab.
Once a year if sexually active.
• If there is a suspected infection.
• During pregnancy.
In a doctor’s office or at home — swabs and samples are sent to a lab for testing.
Gonorrhea• Painful or burning urination.
Bleeding between periods.
• Green, white, or yellow discharge from the penis.
• Increased vaginal discharge.
Painful bowel movements.
• Anal discharge, itchiness, or bleeding.
• Enlarged, painful testicles.
Possible tests include a urine test or swab of the rectum, throat, urethra, or cervix.• If there is a suspected infection.
• Once a year for females under the age of 25.
In a doctor’s office or at home — swabs and samples are sent to a lab for testing.
Herpes• Flares of one or more blisters that last a few days, break open, and cause painful lesions on or around the genitals, mouth, or anus.
• Flu-like symptoms during the first outbreak.
A swab of a sore or blood test.Presence of symptoms in self or partner.In a doctor’s office or at home — swabs and samples are sent to a lab for testing.
HIV
Some people have no symptoms.

If present, symptoms include:

swollen lymph nodes
mouth ulcers
chills
rash
night sweats
muscle aches
sore throat
fatigue
fever
A blood test or
oral sample.

• High-risk groups should get regular, yearly testing.
• All sexually active people aged 13–64 should get tested at least once.
In a clinic or doctor’s office — the results may come back immediately or get sent to the lab and take a few days.
HPV• Genital warts.There is no testing for HPV itself — instead, doctors do a pap smear for cervical cancer.• Females over the age of 30.A doctor will swab a person’s cervix in an office or clinic.
Pubic lice• Itchiness around the genitals.
• Visible lice.
A doctor will look for the presence of lice on the genitals and other areas of hair on the body.• If there is a suspected infection.A doctor may need to use magnifiers to find eggs or small nits.
TrichomoniasisMany people have no symptoms. If present, symptoms include:

• unusual discharge from the vagina or penis
• pain or burning during urination
• irritation in genitals
A urine sample.• If there is a suspected infection.In a doctor’s office or at home — the sample is sent to a lab for testing.
SyphilisSymptoms differ by stage and worsen with each stage:

• First stage — a sore where the infection entered the body.
• Second stage — rashes, mouth sores, fatigue, fever, swollen lymph nodes, patchy hair loss, muscle aches, weight loss, or sore throat.
• Late-stage — syphilis can go on to affect the brain, eyes, or ears causing additional, more severe symptoms and complications.
A fluid sample from a sore or rash, or a blood test.• If there is a suspected infection.
High risk groups, such as people living with HIV or gay/bisexual men, or those with partners who tested positive, should get tested regularly.
A doctor sends the blood or fluid sample to a lab for testing to confirm syphilis.
Hepatitis
Often, no symptoms present for up to several decades but can include:

• nausea
• fatigue
• fever
• loss of appetite
• vomiting
• jaundice
• abdominal pain
• dark urine
• light-colored stools
• joint pain

Blood tests.• Unvaccinated people should get tested if they suspect infection.
• Men who have sex with men.
• People at higher risk, such as those with renal disease or who are pregnant.
A doctor sends the blood test to a lab to confirm hepatitis.

A person has a few different options for where to get tested.

People who visit an OB-GYN can get some testing, such as a pap test for HPV, at a doctor’s office.

Some doctors’ offices may be able to take urine, blood, or tissue samples. However, they may also send a person to a local or in-network lab to get a sample taken.

Some sexual health clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, may also offer STI testing.

People can order STI testing kits online through pharmacies or other companies. A person can then test themselves at home and mail the tests to a lab.

People can consult a doctor to determine the best option for them.

Find out more about where to get tested for STIs.

Several companies offer home testing kits for STIs. Some advantages of home test kits include:

  • discreet results
  • potentially lower cost
  • convenient and easy to use at home
  • different tests offer rapid results or results within a few days

Another potential benefit of home testing is it may increase the likelihood a person will get tested.

A 2019 meta-analysis of 11 studies showed that home testing increased the uptake of STI testing, as well as providing an accurate and viable approach to STI testing.

Different companies offer different packages. For example, Let’s Get Checked offers three different STI testing packets that differ in how many infections they check for.

A person can also order medication from its website if needed to treat any infections.

Learn more about at-home STI testing kits here.

The cost of testing will vary based on several factors. They can include:

  • insurance coverage
  • the setting
  • whether the person qualifies for financial assistance
  • availability of home testing options

Depending on insurance providers and coverage, a person may be able to receive STI testing for free or at a reduced price.

Clinical settings may be cheaper than private labs, and a home-testing kit may be the cheapest option.

A person should consult a doctor about low cost options for STI testing. They may be able to recommend labs, clinics, or testing kits based on their needs and situation.

Low cost options

Clinics may offer lower-cost options for people without insurance or with a lower income. A person should ask a clinic or doctor’s office about more affordable options.

Students may find that their university or college health centers offer free or lower-cost testing options.

Companies that provide home testing kits sometimes offer subscription services, which may help a person save money in the long run. This is a good option for people who need or want regular testing.

STI testing looks for the presence of one or more sexually transmitted infections.

A person should get tested for STIs after every new sexual partner and at least once a year. Some people may find that regular testing can help keep them informed about their health.

A person has several options for testing. These include a doctor’s office, private labs, clinics, student health centers, and at-home kits available online or from a local pharmacy.