Getting tested at least once a year is a great way to take care of our health. However, beyond yearly routine testing, there are other important moments when it is a good idea to visit your local clinic for an STI test. Here’s a quick checklist!
It’s a good idea to get tested if:
- You have a new sexual partner, before you start hooking up
- If you have noticed any bumps, discharge, rashes or other changes in your body
- If you or your partners are hooking up with other people*
- If you had sex with someone who has an STI and didn’t use a condom or other prevention methods
- If you had sex without a condom with someone who doesn’t know if they have an STI (because they haven’t gotten tested in a long time)
- If you had sex with a condom and the condom broke
*Lots of people hook up with STIs. It doesn’t always mean that you will get one as there are many ways to reduce the risk of transmission if you know in advance. For example, if you or your partner is diagnosed with HIV and you’re on treatment, your viral load might become undetectable and so, the virus cannot be transmitted even if you don’t use a condom (about HIV). That said, if one of you gets a positive test for an STI like chlamydia or gonorrhea and you had been having sex without using condoms before knowing it, it’s important to go get tested too so you can get treated if needed!
How often you get tested will depend on many factors. A good general rule is to get tested every time you switch partners and before engaging in sex with your new boo. If you are with the same partner for a long time and don’t have any concerns around sharing needles or tattooing equipment, getting tested every year is another great rule of thumb. It’s important that you don’t wait until you see or experience symptoms of an STI because so many are asymptomatic and can still be passed on even without showing any signs of infection.
Another great option is to make testing a routine part of your health care. If you’re used to going to the dentist or to see your family doctor once a year, make STI testing just another regular part of taking care of yourself.
Going with a group or friends or with your partner is a great way to normalize STI testing, create a routine, and even incorporate it into part of your relationships. There is nothing to be ashamed of in getting tested. In fact, quite the opposite, it shows that you take good care of yourself and those around you.
How soon after sex can I get tested?
This will depend on the STI and the time in between the sexual contact. The amount of time that needs to pass after sexual contact and before you can get tested for STIs (and have them “show up” on a test) is often referred to as a window period. The duration of this window period depends on the STI.
- HIV can take up to three months for a final positive result, although 95% of tests will be accurate after six weeks. It can take up to three months for enough copies of the virus (known as viral load) to accumulate in your blood and be detected through a blood test.
- Chlamydia can be tested for after a few days but results will be most accurate after 2 weeks.
- Gonorrhea results are most accurate after seven days. While you can get tested earlier, there is a chance of a false negative if not enough bacteria or virus has accumulated from the infection to be detected on a test.
- Hepatitis has a window period of two and four weeks.
- Syphilis has window period between three and four weeks.
- Herpes results are most accurate after three months or within two to 12 days if a lesion is present.
For more information on window periods, see SmartSexResource’s chart.
Note: This isn’t intended to be a substitute for professional medical care but can be a helpful tool to get a general idea of when to get tested for STIs.