When to get STD Test
If you are sexually active, get STD Tests often. At least once every 6 months unless you are in one of the high risk groups (see below). You need to take charge of your sexual health because medical providers will not routinely screen you for sexual health. Many will shy away from asking you questions about your sexual habits unless you bring it up at the time of your medical visit. Many STD’s don’t have symptoms, so frequent testing is the only way to screen for STD’s.
Get tested today, and have peace of mind in a few days. The tests for STD’s that Statcare uses are highly reliable, unlike the online kits or tests done by some labs.
Yes. Absolutely. The presence of STD symptoms is an indication for you to get STD Tests done right away. The symptoms of STD can come and go over time or be so minimal that they don’t bother you. It does not mean that the STD is going away or has been cured. ALl STD’s need treatment. Many STD’s are curable. If you have symptoms, you must see a medical provider right away. Quick intervention can cure the STD at an early stage and also helps prevent spread of STD’s from person to person.
All STDs have some overlap symptoms with other STD’s. Many STD’s have symptoms of regular diseases like a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). STD’s fool medical professionals all the time and are often discovered when symptoms persist after initial treatment for other illnesses. Asking a sexual history is key to diagnosing STD’s and unfortunately many medical providers do not routinely ask questions regarding sexual health.
Symptoms of STD’s include:
flu-like symptoms (feeling feverish, having body aches, swollen glands esp in the groin or neck, and feeling fatigued and tired)
Sores, wounds, bumps upon your genitals, inner thighs, or butt cheeks
Feeling like you have to urinate frequently
Discharge from your vagina or penis which looks or smells weird
Irritation or a burning sensation when you pass urine
Irritation, Itching, pain and/or swelling in your pelvic area (penis, vagina, vulva, or anus)
Remember, getting tested for STD is the only way for you to know for sure what’s going on with your sexual health. The idea of getting tested for STD might be anxiety provoking. However, once you get tested you will be glad you did it.
STD testing is part of being healthy and being responsible for yourself. STD Tests can be quite amazing at putting your mind at ease once you get the negative results. And even if you have a positive STD test, remember; most STD’s are curable with treatment. And almost all STDs can cause serious health issues if you don’t detect and treat them early enough. The sooner you find out, the faster you can take care of yourself and your partner(s). Why wait?
The best time to get STD Tests varies by disease. STD’s don’t happen right away after sex. It takes some time for STD’s to show up after an exposure has led to an infection. This is often called the “window period” or the “incubation period” for that STD. And as you guessed by now, the incubation period varies by disease and by your own immune system. Each infection requires a different amount of time to multiply enough inside the body for it to show up when you get STD Tests.
Different STD tests have different abilities to detect an infection. You will therefore find STD tests range from $24 to several hundred dollars. For example, a good quality DNA amplification test if available, will detect the infection far more reliably and earlier than an antibody test that needs to wait for an immune response.
Getting tested for STD’s can be anxiety provoking but there is good news: Most STD’s are curable and almost every STD is treatable. Talk to Statcare’s providers about your concerns – they are experts at dealing with STD’s.
If you ignore the knowledge of incubation period for that STD, you or your doctor will make the classic mistake of testing you at the wrong time. And then, the results you get may be falsely normal. Put in another way, you may have a false sense of security that your STD testing was negative whereas you may in fact be carrying an STD and risk spreading it to your partner, unknowingly.
Just because you have no noticeable signs or symptoms of any STD does not mean that you have not been exposed to an STD. STD’s can remain inside your body for months or years without you having any symptoms and therefore symptoms are not a good measure of determining your STD status. A person can be infected with and contagious for transmitting Syphilis, Chlamydia or HIV to any partner and still go undetected for years because they have no symptoms at all or their symptoms get mistaken for other common infections. Chlamydia is often treated as a UTI or a yeast infection. One common reason for this is that STD’s present themselves differently in men than in women. HPV for example causes cervical cancer in women but it does not affect men as much. Waiting before you have symptoms is obviously not a great strategy for deciding when to get STD Tests. And there is no substitute for performing regular STD Testing.
Yes, it is great that you indulge in safe sex practices. However, the risk of getting STD’s is still there as safe sex is not foolproof by any means. Condoms and other barrier methods may reduce the risk of infections that spread from skin-to-skin or as a result of exposure to body fluids like saliva, semen and vaginal secretions but they do not eliminate them.
STD’s are a smaller risk in faithful relationships. However, many STD’s require mere skin-to-skin contact or exchange of or contact with body fluids (saliva for example – from kissing, sharing straws etc). It may be comforting that that you and your partner are in a faithful relationship, but from an STD perspective, routine STD Testing is still recommended in all sexually active individuals.
We don’t like to use that phrase. “Rule of thumb” comes from an antiquated law in upstate New York where women could be beaten up on any day except Sunday (because of Church) and with a stick not thicker than the width of one’s thumb. There is no one size fits all for STD Testing. In other words, there is no day or week or month after exposure that allows for STD Testing with a great deal of confidence for all STD’s being tested. However, if you narrow it down to the most obvious risks for you, chances are, a simpler schedule can be worked out that will assist you in having confidence in the results you get.
It is a difficult question that has no short answer. At Statcare, we believe it is best for you to approach this issue just the way our medical provider would approach it. When to get STD Tests therefore depends on your individual situation. For example:
- You are sexually active. Everyone needs screening for STD including an HIV test at some point (regardless of having just one partner or using safe sex practices). Women need to get STD Tests like gonorrhea and chlamydia specifically because, unlike men, they can carry these infections without feeling any symptoms.
- You are having a specific concern based on something strange that you see or feel – a symptom, a rash or another physical complaint and you are wondering about your risk for an STD. Your symptoms and history help medical providers to choose the most informative tests as they look for an explanation of your symptoms. This needs a focused STD testing action plan.
- You do not have a concern, your last STD screening was 2-3 months ago and you just want to get STD Tests again AND you have the same sexual partner AND you are both in a monogamous relationship. This needs STD testing for common STD’s.
- You believe that your partner may be cheating on you and you want to get screened. This needs a broader STD Testing done including repeat STD tests.
- You and your partner want to start an intimate relationship and both want to get screened for STD’s before that relationship. This needs a broader STD Testing done.
- Both partners are in the office. This is ideal as both can be tested at the same time.
Four other factors determine the decision making regarding when to get STD Tests:
- Whether you or your partner have had a specific STD in the past that was treated – checking for that specific STD infection as a follow-up strategy after treatment makes sense as you are more likely to have an infection again. It is a good idea to get STD Tests again about 3 months after your treatment.
- Whether you or your partner have a chronic long term infection (HIV or Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C) – frequent checking for that infection is recommended.
- Whether you are a baby boomer. People born between 1945-1965 may have been exposed to hepatitis C and not know it as Hepatitis C had not been discovered and neither did we test for it back then. Hepatitis C infection remains a silent untreated infection and the CDC recommends all baby boomers to get STD Test for Hepatitis C at least once in their lifetime.
- Whether you indulge in protected sex or unprotected sex. Some STD’s are less likely when you have protected sex and no body fluid is exchanged. However when you have unprotected sex without using a condom; with a new partner, whether it is vaginal, anal, or oral sex, you need to get STD Tests.
- Whether you are in an open relationship or have multiple partners. This needs STD Testing for many STD’s with a repeat STD Testing every 6 months.
- Whether you engage in certain behaviors that are considered to be high-risk for coming into contact with HIV, Hepatitis C, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia. High-risk behavior includes men who have sex with men, having any intimate contact with a sex worker, IV drug use, having multiple partners, one night stand and or having an anonymous partner. You need to get STD tests for HIV, Hepatitis C, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia.
The window period varies by STD. Hence, when to get tested after an exposure to STD, also varies by the STD infection:
For Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: 2 weeks
For Syphilis: 1 week to 3 months
HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C: 6 weeks to 3 months
Herpes Type 2: 2 weeks
If you recall our discussion above about the incubation or window period, you will realize that not only can people transmit infections but also not know that they are infected if they are in the window period. The re-testing also varies quite a bit for each STD depending upon the window period and your immune system’s response to an STD. However, if you got tested for STD, it is a good idea to get re-tested after 6 months to be very sure that the initial negative test result was not just a false negative from you having been in a window period.
Here is a general guideline we use at Statcare. Individual cases and decisions however will vary.
|STD||When To Get STD Tests||If Positive, When To Get STD Test Again|
|Chlamydia||1 – 5 Days||2 weeks after being treated.|
|Gonorrhea||2-6 Days||2 weeks after being treated.|
|Syphilis||3-6 Weeks||3 months after being treated.|
|Hepatitis A||2-7 Weeks||Retesting not required. Immunity is lifelong.|
|Hepatitis B||3-6 Weeks.||Retesting in 3 months to see if you developed immunity..|
|Hepatitis C||8-9 Weeks||Retesting in 3 months to confirm the initial results.|
|Oral Herpes Type 1||4-6 Weeks||If you test negative, get re-tested frequently.|
|Genital Herpes Type II||4-6 Weeks||Retesting in 3 months to confirm the initial results.|
|HIV (HIV Antibody Test Method)||1-3 Months||Re-testing depends on re-exposure. Get treatment if you tested positive.|
|HIV (HIV RNA Test)||9-11 Days||Re-testing depends on re-exposure. Get treatment if you tested positive.|