How & Where to Get Tested for STDs

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
September 11, 2020

If you’re sexually active, you should consider STD testing an important part of your overall health plan. STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are common and contagious, but sometimes asymptomatic—meaning you can contract an STD and pass it to others without even realizing it. If left untreated, STDs can cause long-term health consequences for both patients and their sexual partners, which is why early detection and treatment is critical.

What Are STDs?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections passed from one person to another through sexual activity, including oral, anal, or genital contact. STDs can also be passed through non-sexual activity, including needle-sharing or breastfeeding. Because STDs are sometimes asymptomatic or have general, non-specific symptoms, doctors also refer to them as sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Depending on the condition, untreated STDs can cause a broad range of mild to severe symptoms and associated medical conditions, including:

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How to Get Diagnosed and Tested

STD screenings are not always included in regular check-ups, gynecological exams, or Pap smears, which is why you should always talk to your doctor or visit a public health clinic to request the services you need.

Depending on the STD you are being tested for, you may be asked to:

  • Provide a small blood, urine or other body fluid sample
  • Provide a small tissue culture or biopsy of any unusual bumps, rashes, or warts
  • Allow a visual inspection
  • Allow a brief swab inside the penis or along the surface of the cervix

The only way to know for certain if you have an STD is to be tested for it. Results are usually available within a few days of being tested, although the time for an infection to show up on a test from the time that it was acquired varies.

According to Planned Parenthood, STD testing is an important part of every sexually active person’s health plan, no matter how many partners they have. If you’re in a monogamous relationship, you should be tested at least once a year. If you have sex with multiple partners, you should get tested before having sex with anyone new and at regular intervals afterwards.

Remember, you can spread certain STDs to others even if you do not experience any symptoms. If you suspect that you have an STD, it’s important that you stop having sexual contact with others until you have been tested and a doctor tells you that it’s safe to resume sexual activity.

At-home STD tests

Some conditions can be diagnosed with an at-home STD test. Using a special kit, you can collect urine or swab your genitals and then send your sample(s) to a lab for diagnostic testing. Although these tests are convenient, they are also known for generating a higher-than-average rate of false-positive test results. If you use an at-home kit and test positively for an STD (or test negative but still believe you have cause for concern), call your doctor or public health clinic to obtain confirmatory testing and to obtain treatment, as needed.

How to Get Treated for STDs

If your STD test is positive, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. Many conditions are curable, and require an injection or course of oral antibiotics to clear up. Other conditions are managed through regular antiviral or other suppressive medication. As a general rule, the earlier you begin treatment, the more effective it will be.

Where to Get Treated for STDs

If you’re concerned you may have an STD, you should always talk to a doctor online, or other health care provider about scheduling an in-office screening or ordering an at-home STD test kit.

There are also several public health clinics that often provide low-cost and free STD testing. The average Planned Parenthood STD testing cost depends on the branch you visit and your personal income. To find the lowest-cost clinic options in your area, search “STD testing near me,” or “free STD testing near me” to see your options.

STD Prevention

While sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in the United States, with more than 20 million infections diagnosed last year, they are largely preventable. You can follow safe sex practices to prevent contracting or spreading an STD by:

  • Using barrier methods during intercourse
  • Abstaining from sex with anyone with active STD symptoms or who has not recently been tested for STDs
  • Undergoing regular STD testing
  • Vaccinating yourself against common STDs (such as HPV)

Think You Have an STD?

If you think you have an STD, it is important to get tested and treated as soon as possible. With K Health, you can chat with a doctor in minutes.

Start Now

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K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.