Getting tested for STIs can help protect your health and the health of your partners. Since many STIs don’t show any symptoms, testing is the only way to know whether or not you have an STI. You might want to consider STI testing if:
- you have a new partner
- if you think you might have an STI or if you have symptoms of an STI
- if you’ve had oral, vaginal, or anal sex without a barrier like a condom
Doctors also recommend getting testing every 3 months if you have several sexual partners or if you inject drugs. It’s also a good idea to get tested at least once a year if you’re sexually active.
Worrying that you may have an STI is very common, and so is worrying you might get a positive result. It can help to talk to people you trust about what you might be afraid of. You can also remember that even after getting positive results, nearly everyone lives long and happy lives. It can also help to know learn about what happens when you go to the clinic for an STI test.
STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are also sometimes called STDs.
Should I get tested even if I don’t have symptoms?
Most times someone has an STI, they actually don’t have any symptoms. So, it can help to look at your risk instead of if you have symptoms. Getting tested can tell you for sure and help you avoid any health issues from an untreated STIs. Some people choose to get tested before having sex with a new partner, or once a year at a regular health check up.
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). If you’ve done these or anything else you know might be risky, it’s a good idea to get tested.
Canadian guidelines suggest that people who have a higher risk of getting STIs get tested every 3 months. This risk depends on whether a person uses barriers like condoms, how many sexual partners a person has, and if their partners have STIs.
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. It’s also important to remember that most STIs can be cured very easily, and even the ones that can’t be cured can be treated to limit their impact on your health. There are a lot of bad associations with STIs, but in the end, they’re just infections like the flu, and can be treated in similar ways. If you’re noticing STI symptoms, it’s a good idea to see a doctor as soon as you can. The early you get treated, the better!
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
How soon after sex can I get tested?
Some STIs will only show up on tests after they’ve been in the body for a few months. These are called their testing windows. It can help to talk to a doctor or nurse about when you’ve had sex and when you need to get tested. The doctor or nurse may also ask you to come back in a few weeks or months for follow up tests.
Each STI has a different testing window where most tests are accurate:
|Hepatitis A and B||4 weeks|
|Hepatitis C||6-10 weeks|
|Herpes||As soon as you notice symptoms|