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Getting Tested For STIs (What to Expect)

It’s very common to be confused when it comes to getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You might think…

I have no symptoms, so I don’t need to get tested.

This is a very valid thought. Surprisingly, though, many STIs have no signs or symptoms, or mild signs can easily be overlooked. The best way to know if you are staying healthy is by getting tested for STIs.

I recently had my annual exam, so I don’t need to get tested.

An STI screening can be done at the same time as an annual exam but is not automatically included. You have to specifically request it from your doctor. Note: A Pap test is not the same as an STI screening.

I was sexually active but currently am not, so I don’t need to get tested.

Even if you are not currently having sex, if you’ve had a new partner or unprotected sex since your last screening, getting tested for STIs is a good idea. It’s not the awkward, sterile experience many imagine. In fact, it’s typically quick and painless.

The first thing to note: There’s no single test for all STIs. You and your doctor can discuss your lifestyle and which tests are right for you. Maybe you’re exploring with multiple partners of both genders. Maybe you had unprotected sex one time a couple weeks ago. Maybe it’s been a little while, but you just want to be sure you’re healthy. Wherever you’re at in your sex life, your provider can meet you where there and determine the right tests. Getting tested for STIs will give you the information you need to move forward in your sex life.

Chlamydia

Type of test: swab of genital area or urine test

Note: Let your doctor know if you have had oral or anal sex. These areas can also be infected by chlamydia but do not always show up on a urine test or swab.

Gonorrhea

Type of test: swab of genital area or urine test

Note: Samesies – Let your doctor know if you have had oral or anal sex. These areas can also be infected by chlamydia but do not always show up on a urine test or swab.

HIV

Type of test: blood test or swab from inside the mouth

Note: Confidential screening is available if requested.

Genital Herpes

Type of test: blood test drawn from the arm or a finger prick or if there are symptoms, the doctor will also swab the affected area.

Note: For herpes, it’s important to get tested quickly to stop the spread and control an outbreak.

Syphilis

Type of test: blood test or sample from a sore if there is one

Note: Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis early in pregnancy.

Trichomoniasis (or “Trich”)

Type of test: swab of infected area, physical exam, or sample of discharge

Note: Male-bodied individuals typically don’t show signs of trichomoniasis.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV, Genital Warts)

Type of test: visual diagnosis

Note: There is the common misconception that HPV only affects female-bodied people, but any sexually active person can become infected.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV, Cervical Cancer)

Type of test: If a Pap test returns abnormal, an HPV DNA test or biopsy can be ordered.

Note: Male-bodied people cannot get this type of HPV. Pap tests determine changes in cervical cells and do not test for HPV, although an abnormal Pap may indicate HPV.

Final Thoughts About Getting Tested For STIs

No matter what the tests say, you’ll feel better having all of the information. Don’t put it off; get tested today!

Vibrant Staff

The Vibrant Staff writers are a group of sex-positive cis women and queer folks employed by Vibrant. Our contributors are passionate about educational advocacy, sexual autonomy and freedom, healthy relationships, and sharing their experiences with you!

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Vibrant Staff

The Vibrant Staff writers are a group of sex-positive cis women and queer folks employed by Vibrant. Our contributors are passionate about educational advocacy, sexual autonomy and freedom, healthy relationships, and sharing their experiences with you!

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