Getting tested for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) can help protect your health and the health of your partners. Doctors recommend STI testing every 3 months if you have several sexual partners or if you inject drugs. It’s also a common practice to get tested at least once a year if someone is sexually active.
You might want to consider STI testing if:
- you or your partners have a new partner;
- you think you might have an STI or if you have symptoms of an STI;
- you’ve had oral, vaginal, or anal sex without a barrier like a condom or the condom broke;
- you or your partners have shared needles for drugs, tattooing or piercing.
STIs are also sometimes called STDs.
Should I get tested even if I don’t have symptoms?
Most times when people have an STI, they actually don’t have any symptoms. So, it can help to look at your risk instead of if you have symptoms. This risk depends on whether a person uses barriers like condoms, how many sexual partners a person has, and if their partners have STIs.
Generally, it can help to get tested if you have oral, vaginal, or anal sex without a barrier like a condom or a dental dam (a thin piece of latex you hold between the mouth and a vagina or anus for oral sex). It’s also a good idea if you ever share needles. Getting tested can tell you for sure and help you avoid any health issues from untreated STIs. Some people choose to get tested before having sex with a new partner, or once a year as a regular health check-up.
I think I have symptoms of an STI
Many people get worried when they think they see signs of an STI. It can help to know that many STI symptoms are also symptoms of other kinds of infections.
The most common STI symptoms are:
- a burning sensation when peeing
- pain in or on the genitals (penis, vagina, vulva, or anus)
- an unusual liquid coming out of them, with a different texture, colour, or smell from what you usually have
- unexpected bleeding on your genitals
- a bad smell around the genitals
- bumps or sores that are itchy
- a rash that seems different
- signs of a flu or cold after you’ve had sex without a barrier
What if I get a positive result?
It’s important to remember that most STIs are easy to cure, and even the ones that aren’t curable can be treated. Lots of people with STIs live long and healthy lives! There are a lot of bad (yet wrong) associations with STIs, but at the end of the day, STIs are nothing but infections like the flu. If someone is noticing STI symptoms, they just go to see a doctor as soon as they can, like they would for any other type of illness. Early diagnosis or treatments always help!
It’s also common to worry that you might have an STI or a positive result after getting tested. It always helps to talk to people you trust about what you might be afraid of. It can also help to know about what happens when you go to the clinic for an STI test.
How soon after sex can I get tested?
You can get tested as soon as you can. But some STIs will only show up on tests after they’ve been in the body for a few days or weeks. This is called the STI’s testing window.
It can help to talk to a doctor or nurse about when you’ve had sex. The doctor or nurse might recommend you come back or retest after the testing window. This gives you results you can trust even more!
Each STI has a different testing window. Tests are more accurate after the window ends:
|Gonorrhea||5 days to 2 weeks|
|Hepatitis A and B||4 weeks|
|Hepatitis C||6-10 weeks|
|Herpes||As soon as you notice symptoms|
|HIV||10–33 days for a nucleic acid test.|
18–45 days for an antigen/antibody test.
23–90 days for an antibody test
|Syphilis||Within 3 weeks after sores appear. Sores appear usually 1 week after exposure|