Should I Get Tested For STDs?

While the idea of being tested for STDs can sometimes seem uncomfortable or even frightening, it’s one of the smartest things you can do for your health, especially if you’re sexually active and not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship.

The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) released testing recommendations and guidelines in 2015. The CDC recommends that:

Sexually Active Adults

(both men and women)
should be tested for HIV and Chlamydia annually

Sexually Active Women

under the age of 25
should be tested annually for Chlamydia

Pregnant Women

should be tested for HIV and Hepatitis B as soon as possible, and should be tested for Syphilis and Chlamydia at their first prenatal visit

Sexually active men

having sex with other men should be regularly tested for syphilisChlamydiaHIV, and Gonorrhea

When are STDs Detected?

Generally speaking, if you have unprotected sex with a new partner, you should be tested for STDs. It can be difficult to know when to be tested since not all STDs are detectable at the same time.

This can seem overwhelming, but you don’t need to remember this schedule precisely.

Experts recommend being tested 1 to 2 weeks after unprotected sex, and then again 90 days after potential exposure

Getting tested for a STD is important even if you don’t have symptoms. In fact, the majority of individuals with a sexually transmitted disease experience no symptoms, or symptoms so slight the signs typically end up being ignored.

What is the STD Testing Process Like?

There is no single test that checks for all STDs at once. However, you can get a general panel done, which includes multiple tests done in the same visit that check for the most common types of STDs. You can even buy STD panel testing kits online, which generally test for the most common diseases. The way tests are administered differ.

Here is a list of testing procedures for common types of STDs.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea, also known as The Clap, is a bacterial infection that may cause infertility if left untreated. It’s a common STD, with over 3 million cases diagnosed each year in the United States alone. Gonorrhea does not always cause symptoms, but when it does, they include burning when urinating; white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis in infected men; increased vaginal discharge and vaginal bleeding between periods in women; and anal itching or bleeding and painful bowel movements if contracted during anal sex.

  • Testing method: Urine sample or swab of genital area
  • Testing time: 10-15 minutes
  • Time to results: 2-3 days for results
  • Things you should know: Tell the tester if you’ve had anal or oral sex, as these areas may need to be tested as well.
  • Treatment: Gonorrhea can be cured with medication. Be aware, however, that any damage caused by the disease cannot be reversed through treatment, and some damage is permanent. Some strains of gonorrhea are harder to treat than other strains, as some gonorrhea is drug-resistant. If your medication isn’t helping after a few days, contact your medical provider.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection most common in young women, though men can also contract this disease. Many people infected with Chlamydia do not manifest any symptoms, but those who do might experience painful urination and uncomfortable sexual intercourse. You might also experience discharge from the penis or vagina, or discharge or spotting from your eyes.

  • Testing method:  Urine sample or swab of genital area
  • Testing time: 10-15 minutes
  • Time to results: 2-3 days for results
  • Things you should know: Tell the tester if you’ve had anal or oral sex, as these areas may need to be tested as well.
  • Treatment: Chlamydia is very treatable and can be cured with antibiotic medications prescribed by your doctor.

Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that initially manifests as a painless sore. If left untreated, this infection can cause a full-body rash in about 4-10 days after exposure. If still untreated, Syphilis can harm internal organs 3-15 years after the infection is contracted. This STD is less common than some other infections, with less than 200,000 cases in the United States each year.

  • Testing method: Sample taken from sore or a blood test
  • Testing time: 10-15 minutes
  • Time to results: 2 days
  • Things you should know: The CDC strongly recommends that pregnant women get tested for Syphilis.
  • Treatment: Syphilis is most commonly treated with Penicillin. While some other STDs, like Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, are resolved in a few days, Syphilis takes a little longer to cure, and can last a few months even with treatment.

Genital Herpes

People can contract herpes around their mouths in the form of cold sores, though this is less serious than Genital Herpes. You might contract genital herpes without any symptoms, but if you do show symptoms, it will manifest as painful sores around the genitals. These sores can turn into ulcers or scabs.

  • Testing method: A blood draw if there are no symptoms or a swab of the infected area with symptoms.
  • Testing time: 10-15 minutes
  • Time to results: 2 hours to several days, depending on the type of test and whether or not a culture needs to grow
  • Things you should know: Up to 90 percent of people who test positive for Herpes show no symptoms, so be sure to get tested even if you don’t see any sores in the genital area.
  • Treatment: Outbreaks of genital herpes can be managed with antivirals, but this infection cannot be cured. It may last for years or even a lifetime.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a serious disease that affects the liver. It can be transmitted via infected blood as well as through sexual contact. Left untreated, Hepatitis B will inflame the liver and eventually cause cirrhosis, a serious condition that can lead to liver failure, which may mean that you’ll end up needing a liver transplant. Symptoms of this disease usually include pain in the abdomen, fatigue, nausea, yellow skin and eyes, and swollen blood vessels in the skin.

  • Testing method: 3 blood tests
  • Testing time: 10-15 minutes
  • Time to results: 1-3 days
  • Things you should know: As this disease affects the liver, it is best to avoid alcohol if infected.
  • Treatment: Hepatitis B can be easily prevented with a vaccine. In the case you do contract it, it can be treated with an antiviral drug. In some mild cases, Hepatitis B will clear up on its own.

Hepatitis C

Similar to Hepatitis B, this disease attacks the liver and causes inflammation, though most people who are infected don’t have any symptoms. If it isn’t treated, it can lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis, and liver failure. Hepatitis C can be transmitted sexually and through infected blood.

  • Testing method: Blood test
  • Testing time: 10-15 minutes
  • Time to results: 1-3 days
  • Things you should know: Often, two blood tests are used to determine if you have Hepatitis C. First, a test is done to see if you’ve ever had Hepatitis C in your life. If that test returns positive, then a second test will be administered to see if you have it now.
  • Treatment: As this disease affects the liver, it is best to avoid alcohol if infected. Hepatitis C is treatable with antiviral drugs.

Trichomoniasis

Where most STDs are caused by bacterial infection, Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite that is transmitted sexually. It is a highly common disease, with over 3 million cases each year in the United States alone. Pregnant women with this infection may be at risk for premature delivery. Infected women might experience odorous vaginal discharge, painful urination, and genital itching. Men typically show no symptoms.

  • Testing method: Physical exam, swab of infected area, urine sample, or sample of discharge for women
  • Testing time: 10-15 minutes
  • Time to results: A few days
  • Things you should know: Trichomoniasis can infect both men and women, but it is harder to detect in men. Wait 28 days after exposure to be tested to reduce false negative results.
  • Treatment: Trichomoniasis is highly treatable with antiviral medication, and usually clears up in a few days to a few weeks.

HIV

Arguably the most serious STD you can contract, HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It evolves into AIDS and makes it difficult for your body to fight off infections by taking over the cells that usually defend the body. A few weeks after being exposed to HIV, you might experience a fever, fatigue, or a sore throat. After that, you might not experience any symptoms until the disease progresses into AIDS. HIV is rare, with less than 200,000 cases each year in the United States.

  • Testing method: 3 types of blood tests
  • Testing time: 30 minutes to a few days
  • Time to results: 1-3 days
  • Things you should know: There are different blood tests to check for HIV based on the window of time in which the testing is done.
    • Antibody tests check for HIV antibodies in the blood. It can take 3-12 weeks from the time of exposure for this test to read correctly.
    • The next type of test is a combination test, which checks for antigens and antibodies. It can take 2-6 weeks from the time of exposure for this test to read correctly.
    •  NATs tests look for the HIV virus in the blood. This test will be accurate anywhere between 7 and 28 days from the time you were exposed to HIV.
    You can be tested for HIV confidentially and even anonymously. Those administering the tests and giving your results don’t even have to know your name and can instead refer to you as a number you receive when you take the test.The CDC recommends that every pregnant woman be tested for HIV as soon as possible, and also suggests that everyone age 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once.
  • Treatment: There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. However, anti-retroviral therapy, known as ART, can prolong life by slowing the disease’s progress. ART can also prevent secondary diseases and infections from occurring.

Where Can I Find STD Testing Near Me?

If you think you need to be tested for STDs, we can help you find a testing center near you. Public testing is widely available mainly because of the easy-to-access state clinics and mobile testing centers that are able to reach areas that otherwise are without resources. However, there is less privacy.There are thousands of private labs in the United States that are affiliated with private clinics that might be available to you. They have transparent pricing but may end up costing more than public depending on your income.

Find Public or Private STD Testing Centers Near You

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Learn more about Free STD Testing availability in your city and state by visiting one of the links below

Do I Need Insurance to Get Tested?

Paying for STD testing can be expensive. That’s why using insurance for testing can be helpful, but you do not have to have insurance in order to be tested. There are many options available, including some free testing options.

Do I Need Insurance to Get Tested?

In some cases, getting tested for sexually transmitted infections may qualify as preventative care, which many insurance companies cover. However, some insurance companies only cover a certain number of preventative visits each year; for example, they might cover only one or two physical exams annually to be sure you have a clean bill of health. This would be the time to get tested if this is the case. If your insurance does have a limit to how many preventative visits you can have per year, it’s possible that STD testing may not be covered under your insurance plan.

Insurance companies are generally more willing to cover STD testing as a diagnostic procedure if you are showing symptoms. Some STD treatments are covered under insurance policies, and this would automatically include the diagnostic process unless it is specifically excluded in your plan.

While STD testing might be covered through your insurance, a positive test result may cause some issues. Generally speaking, insurance companies don’t like covering the cost of STD treatments, so a positive test might result in your insurance rates going up. Insurance might even deny you coverage of any STD-related treatment. When you try to change insurance companies down the line, you may run into some issues, as STDs count as a pre-existing condition.

If you’re concerned about what your insurance might do if you test positive for a STD, you may want to consider not having your insurance pay for testing. If this is what you choose, or if your insurance company doesn’t offer any STD testing coverage, don’t worry; other options are available.

Testing Without Insurance

Free or low-cost testing options are available in both public, state-run clinics and in private practices. The most well-known state clinic is Planned Parenthood, which provides free or low-cost testing depending on your income. Planned Parenthood and other government-run programs offer a full range of testing, including all of the diseases we’ve discussed above, and more.

Private clinics also offer low-cost testing, some charging as little as $50 per test. Not all options are low-cost, however, and can cost hundreds of dollars. Additionally, many college students may have access to free STD testing through their university.

What Testing Options are Available?

When you think you might have a STD, you may feel like your choices are limited, but they’re not. There are many testing facilities available, both public and private.
You can even buy tests online.

Public vs Private STD Testing

Both public and private testing are viable options if you need to be checked for STDs, but there are pros and cons to each choice that you should consider before you decide what route is best for you and your situation. Keep the following information in mind when deciding between public and private testing.

What are the Advantages of Private Testing?

Public testing can be convenient cost-wise if you meet the locations' income eligibility, there are several advantages to private testing, including those mentioned above: privacy and HIPAA compliance, prescription treatment, fast results, and a wider range of STD tests.

Privacy

Most of the people who come to public testing centers are there for the same reason, meaning that it’s no secret to anyone why you’re there. Because of this, it would be a natural response to worry that you might see someone you know when you go in to the clinic to be tested. Even worse, wait times in public clinics can last hours, and it can be embarrassing to wait in public waiting rooms for so long for something so personal and sensitive.

If you choose public mobile testing, this lack of privacy can be even worse, as there’s no question about what these vans are for. Whomever witnesses you approaching to or talking with staff or entering the van will know why you’re there.

Privacy of STD Testing

With private testing, you can let these worries dissolve. Private labs test for more than just STDs, so you don’t have to worry that people will know why you’re there.

Additionally, while many public STD testing clinics follow the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Act, not all may do so. With every private testing center and lab, you can be assured that HIPAA is being followed and that all of your information is secure and protected.

You receive your test result from private clinics, securely online. This way you won’t have to worry about answering uncomfortable phone calls at inopportune times, like you might from a public clinic. All testing results and electronic correspondence is protected by HIPAA and has the proper, industry-standard security requirements.

Your privacy is our priorityYou receive your test result from private clinics securely online, so you don’t have to worry about answering uncomfortable phone calls at an inopportune time like you might from a public clinic. All testing results and electronic correspondence is protected by HIPAA and has the proper, industry-standard security requirements.

Testing

Private testing centers can test for more types of STDs than most public centers. Public centers usually only have the resources to perform a general panel of tests for the most common STDs. However, a general panel might not cover what you need. Private testing centers offer more testing options.

In addition to more testing options, private testing is often faster. While some public centers do offer some same-day results for some diseases, you’ll usually find yourself waiting up to 2 weeks for answers. In contrast, it only takes up to 3 business days to receive results from a private testing center.

Privacy of STD Testing
Privacy of STD Testing

Fast Prescription Treatment

If your tests come back positive, private clinics can start treating you right away, depending on the disease and what kind of treatment it requires. You can speak with a medical professional about your case and any concerns you may have, and the doctor can prescribe medication or other treatments for you as needed nearly immediately.

In the public setting, it can take up to 2 months from the time you call to get an appointment, go in and get tested, wait for results, then wait for an appointment to see a doctor.

Privacy of STD Testing

Will My Information Be Kept Private?

Private STD testing ensures that your information remains confidential. Instead of having to go to a crowded public waiting room at a free or low-cost public clinic, your interactions are limited with private testing, and no one has to know why you’re in the lab waiting to be tested.Private testing works differently by first ordering the tests you want done online. Then, you visit one of the private testing center’s affiliated labs (there are more than 4,000 across the U.S.) and provide blood and/or urine samples.

All of the labs affiliated with the private testing center do more than just STD tests, and so it isn’t obvious why you’re there, which of course affords you more privacy. Labs also don’t require the extensive paperwork and embarrassing questions that accompany a visit to a public clinic.

Your body is invaded less in a private lab than in a public clinic, as well. Where a public center will most likely require swabs of the genitals, anus, or mouth, private testing centers only require blood or urine samples.

While the setup of the labs and the tests through private STD testing provide more confidentiality than public, you should know that laws are in place in every state in the U.S. regarding the reporting of laboratory results for STDs. These laws affect both public and private clinics. The laws vary from state to state, and you should become familiar with the laws that affect you.

Generally speaking, reports are made to the state health department and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) when tests return positive for Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Syphilis, and HIV. Depending on the laws in your state and the disease in question, your positive result will be reported either confidentially (meaning that the state receives your name only and your result, but the information is not made public) or anonymously (meaning that your results are reported in connection to a number and not your name). Depending on the disease, the state may call your sexual partners to recommend that they be tested for STDs. During these calls, no identifying information, including your name or sex, will be revealed to your contacts.

Privacy of STD Testing

How Much Does Private Testing Cost?

For most people, one of the greatest appeals for public testing is that it offers low-cost or even free options, but this can be deceiving. Testing costs aren’t guaranteed to be free or even low. It all depends on your income, and then your payment is based on a sliding scale.

This can leave you in the dark about how much you’re going to end up paying for testing and treatment. You might not end up with a specific amount until after all of the testing is done and treatment has been prescribed. At that point, you might be left with a bill that you didn’t expect and have no way to pay.

So, while testing costs on a sliding scale appeals to many, it’s not always the best choice. With private testing, you know exactly what you’re paying for and what the charges are before you ever step foot in a lab. When you visit the private clinic’s secure website, you can clearly see the price of each test before you order it. Private testing prices are completely transparent from the beginning, and you’re not left to guess what the final bill will be.

Privacy of STD Testing

What About Insurance?

Many private testing companies accept insurance, though not all do, and not every private clinic will accept your insurance specifically. Be sure to check with your insurance, the testing company, and the affiliated labs regarding coverage. Depending on your insurance plan, coverage and prices may vary.

However, as mentioned above, you may decide that you don’t want your insurance involved. If this is the case, or if your insurance doesn’t cover testing or isn’t accepted by the clinic, many private testing centers offer financial options. Be sure to ask the center that you choose to work with what your options are.

Privacy of STD Testing

How Do I Decide Which Is Right for Me?

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to STD testing, except that it’s important that you do it if you feel you may have been exposed. But in regards to whether or not public or private is right for you, it really depends on your situation, the tests you need, and what’s most important to you.

Your Situation

The Tests You Need

Both private and public centers can test for the most common STDs. These include HIV, Herpes, Syphilis, Trichomoniasis, Gonorrhea, Genital Warts, and Chlamydia.

If you want to get tested for other STDs, you should consider a private testing center. Private labs have the resources to test for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, HPV, and other STDs that many public testing centers do not have access to.

On the other hand, if you need anal or oral swabs completed, you may want to consider a public testing center. Because private labs do not do physical exams, these tests are usually unavailable. If you believe you have been exposed to STDs through anal or oral sex, a public center may be your best option.

What’s Most Important?

Both public and private testing has value, and the right one for you might come down to what you value most.

Are You A Health Department? Why should I use Safer STD Testing?

No. Safer STD Testing is an informational website designed to educate you about STD testing. We refer readers like you to private STD testing providers, which we often refer to as “Preferred Service Providers” or “Advertisers.” We are not a medical or healthcare facility, and none of our information is intended as medical advice. For our full disclosure, click here.

At Safer STD Testing, we believe that you have the right to be in full control of your sexual health and that’s why Safer STD Testing works with nationally reputed companies that specialize in providing private, confidential, non-judgmental and fast STD testing services. Your personal information is fiercely guarded, and the testing is done at the nation’s most respected diagnostic laboratories.

Why should I get tested for a STD?

Not only are infection rates rising, many STIs are asymptomatic for extended periods of time will be. This basically means that many common STIs do not show signs and symptoms, and unless you get tested it might be years before you learn that you have been infected with a deadly virus or bacteria. By then, it might be too late for the infection to be treated.

A classic example is Syphilis. Syphilis is curable, but if left untreated it can develop into a more serious form of the disease that can result in paralysis, blindness and even death. Other serious additional medical risks are also commonly associated with the different STDs, including infertility in both men and women, increased risk of cancer, severe neurological damage, mental retardation and general deformities, as well as seizures.

How Do I Get Tested For STDs?

It is important that you first make the decision to get tested. We are here to help you find the right healthcare provider. Many people incorrectly believe that STD testing is included in pelvic exams, gynecologist visits, or physicals. This is not the case. Due to the variety of STD tests available, you must specifically request an STD test from a healthcare provider.

How long will it take for me to get my test results?

Any test you take at one of our Preferred Service Providers’ sexual health facilities is designed to provide you reliable and accurate results within 3 days. Your test results will be made available to you online or via phone. You won’t receive any mail at home. A private email will notify you that your test results are available, and then simply log into the secured website or call to access your test results.

Can I Get Free Testing?

Free STD testing is available depending on your circumstances. College students generally have access to free tests. Public clinics may offer free testing depending on your income. In some cases, public testing might end up costing more than private since public clinics do not accept insurance and don’t offer transparent pricing.

Are the tests accurate?

STD tests are never 100% accurate and that’s mostly because many STIs don’t show up right away. In some cases, it can take an infection anywhere from a couple of days to a few months to show up in testing. Our Preferred Service Providers tests are reliable and accurate as per industry standards.

Do I need a referral letter from my GP to get tested?

No. To attend the recommended sexual health facilities, you do not need a referral letter from your General Practitioner (GP). Our Preferred Service Providers operate an open access sexual health service that you can attend with or without an appointment.

What about billing and payment?

All major credit cards or payments via Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Flex Spending Accounts (FSAs) and eChecks are accepted for private STD Testing by our preferred service providers. Your health insurance may not be acceptable at a few select PSPs, so we recommend checking prior to ordering your tests. A cancellation policy allows you to receive a full or partial refund on any order placed with our service providers within specified days of making payment and before visiting one of the testing facilities.

Can I get tested for STDs at home?

There are “over the counter” tests that can be done at home. It is private, and comes with easy to follow instructions, or you can get the kit shipped to your home.

Can I order my test online instead of calling?

If you prefer to order your STD test online, find a private location by scrolling above to the location selector.

If I use a credit card, what will appear on my statement?

The name of the testing service provider or website will not appear on any billing statement. All communications and billing will be handled in a discrete manner, designed to protect your privacy.

What if If I’m under the age of 18?

Can you still get tested without a parent/guardian’s permission? While the law can vary from state to state, in most cases you can get tested for all STDs without signed consent from a parent or guardian even if you are age 17 or younger. It is still a good idea to check with the local laws in your area.

If my lab visit is confidential, why do I need a photo ID?

The law requires that your visit and subsequent test is completely confidential, and the results will never be shared with an outside party. This is one of the reasons why you need a photo ID to confirm your identity. The picture ID card ensures staff that the results are being released to the right person, and it also helps the office personnel keep accurate records about their patients’ health.

Already having your information on file also helps to improve your experience on future visits, and it can even speed up the procedure.

Will I have to provide any personal information?

You will have to provide some personal information, starting with your zip code. Your name and contact information will also be required. All data supplied by you will be kept private, whether you provide it over the phone or online.

How can I be sure that my test results will be kept private?

Our preferred service providers take every step to ensure that your tests results are kept private. This is one of the main reasons why results can only be accessed via email or phone call. It should be noted that if you test positive for HIV/AIDS these results will be reported to your local health department as required by federal law.

What type of STI tests are commonly offered?

Our preferred service providers offer tests for all commonly transmitted sexual infections. While you can choose to be tested for only one STD, most physicians recommend a full 10 panel test. This includes HIV Type 1 and 2, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes 1 and 2, along with Hepatitis A, B and C.

Is testing covered by insurance?

Some insurance carriers do cover testing costs, but many do not. If you are unsure of your coverage, we recommend that you look over your policy. Our preferred service providers will also be able to let you know if your health insurance is accepted.

Can I be tested the same day I schedule an appointment?

Yes, in many cases you can be tested the same day.

Peace of mind is just a click awayDon’t wait any longer than necessary to find out the status of your sexual health. If your test results are positive, seeking treatment sooner can make all the difference.

Disclaimer

  • Safer STD Testing is an informational referral website. It refers customers to nationally reputed private STD Testing service providers ("Preferred Service Providers" or "Advertisers"). Safer STD Testing is not a medical or healthcare professional facility or a provider of any medical or healthcare services. Safer STD Testing gets compensated on net purchase of products or services by our users referred to such Preferred Service Providers. Click here to read our full disclaimer.
  • Learn more on terms and conditions of service by our “Preferred Service Providers" or "Advertisers”.
  • Please contact the individual public clinic to confirm pricing. Test pricing at public clinics many times depend on income and welfare eligibility.