Sexual Health

When Should I Get An STD Test?

Talor Bianchini
Talor Bianchini10 Dec 2021

Regular STD testing is the only way to know for sure if you have an STD. While it’s important to get tested if you are experiencing any potential STD symptoms, you should always get tested at least once a year if you are sexually active. If you don’t always have protected sex, you should get tested every six months.  

STD testing can get expensive, especially if you are paying without insurance. Luckily, Mira offers discounted STD testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and more. For only $45 a month, you’ll get access to same-day STD testing, as well as other lab tests like Vitamin D, A1c, and lipid panels. Protect yourself and others - sign up for Mira today. 

When Should I Get An STD Test?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are highly prevalent in the United States, especially among those aged 15 to 24. The CDC estimates that in 2018 alone, there were 26 million new cases of STDs. If you are sexually active, it's essential to get tested regularly for STDs to keep you and those around you safe.

In general, as a sexually active person, you should be getting tested at least once a year. However, if you engage in unprotected sex, you should be getting tested at least every six months. If you had unprotected sex, make sure to wait a few weeks before getting tested, as some STDs do not show up right away. 

In addition to getting tested for STDs, women and men should get vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV virus is the most common STD in women and can lead to cervical cancer. HPV can also affect men and cause penile cancer or cancer in the back of the throat. 

When Men Should Get an STD Test

STDs can affect men and women very differently. Men tend to notice symptoms of an STD more frequently than women because symptoms, such as discharge and ulcers, are often unusual to their typical sexual health and more noticeable. 

Heterosexual men are at low risk for contracting STDs as long as they wear condoms. For this reason, it's recommended that heterosexual men get tested at least once a year for STDs. However, sexually active bisexual men, gay men, and other men who have sex with men are at greater risk of contracting STDs. If they have more than one sexual partner, they should be tested every 3 to 6 months for gonorrhea or syphilis. They should also make sure to get tested for HIV at least once a year. It is essential to talk to your doctor to figure out how often you should be tested for STDs. 

When Women Should Get an STD Test

As mentioned above, women are more susceptible overall to both STDs and STIs. In terms of anatomy, the skin of the vagina is much thinner than the skin on the penis, making it easier to contract a bacterial infection. Women also may mistake symptoms of STDs for something else. For example, women may think that unusual discharge is caused by a yeast infection rather than an STD. Women may also face more severe health consequences from untreated STDs, such as infertility. 

Therefore, the CDC recommends that all sexually active women under the age of 25 get tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia at least once a year. This recommendation may change depending on the number of sexual partners and whether women engage in protected sex. Pregnant women should be tested for STDs during the early phase of their pregnancy and continue to do so if they are at risk. 

How & Where to Get an STD Test

There are many places that you can go to get an STD test. Your primary care physician will most likely do STD testing at their office and may include it in your yearly wellness visit. You can also receive STD testing at your OB/GYN as part of an annual visit. Testing at either one of these locations may be expensive since you are paying a provider cost. 

You may find more affordable STD and STI testing at an urgent care center, Planned Parenthood, or a community health clinic. Urgent care centers are a quick and convenient location to get tested for STDs, especially if you can’t get in to see your doctor promptly. Planned Parenthood and other community health clinics may offer free STD screenings. If you struggle to find a place near you to get tested, check out this tool on the CDC’s website. 

Getting tested at laboratory facilities may also be cheaper than going to an urgent care center or doctor’s office. In addition, some companies provide at-home STD tests that you can order online. Mira is another way you can get access to affordable STD tests. Mira offers comprehensive STD testing for only $99, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and syphilis tests. 

Below we outline how much you can expect to pay for STD testing at various locations. The prices may vary depending on how many STDs you get tested for. 

Average Cost of STD Testing at Different Locations

Location

Average Cost Without Insurance

Urgent Care

$245-$350

Planned Parenthood

$130-$270

At-Home Tests

$24 - $499

Laboratory Facilities

$89 - $399

Mira

$99

If you haven’t had an STD test before, you may be curious about what this test will be like and how to prepare. The following are all potential forms of testing:

  • Blood test
  • Physical exam
  • Swab of cheek, discharge, or cells
  • Testing of sores 
  • Urine test
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Which STD Tests To Get

When you get an STD test, it's essential to be open and honest about your sex life to your healthcare provider. This will help them determine which STDs they are most susceptible to and should be getting tested for. While it may feel embarrassing to talk about STD testing, doctors are there to help. Some topics you should make sure to discuss are:

  • How often you use protection
  • Number of sexual partners
  • Type of sexual intercourse (oral, anal, vaginal)
  • Potential symptoms
  • Whether you share needles

Below is a list of common STDs and who should consider getting tested. The CDC also provides an excellent resource for determining whether or not you fit into any potentially susceptible categories

  • Chlamydia: sexually active women under the age of 25, women older than 25 and at risk of STIs, men who have sex with men (MSM), people with HIV, and people who were forced to engage in intercourse or sexual activity.
  • Gonorrhea: sexually active women under the age of 25, women older than 25 and at risk of STIs, men who have sex with men (MSM), people with HIV, and people who were forced to engage in intercourse or sexual activity.
  • Syphilis: people who are sexually active, notice a sore on the genitals, or have had unprotected sex with somebody with syphilis
  • HIV: people who engaged in sexual activity with a person living with HIV, men who have sex with men, people who had more than one sexual partner since the last HIV test, have been diagnosed with other STIs, have been diagnosed with Hepatitis or Tuberculosis, or have had sex with anybody who meets the risk mentioned above factors or does not know if they meet the risk factors
  • Herpes: people who have genital symptoms that could be related to herpes, have a sex partner with genital herpes, or want a complete STD exam, especially if you have multiple sex partners
  • Trichomonas: people with HIV or women receiving care in high prevalence situations for HPV such as cervical cancer and anal cancer, women 21-65 with cytology, or those with HIV
  • Hepatitis B: men and women at increased risk, men who have sex with men, or those with HIV
  • Hepatitis C: all adults over 18 years old

STD Testing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

STD testing may seem awkward and scary, especially the first time you get tested. You should never feel embarrassed for having questions about getting tested. Below are the answers to some common questions regarding STD testing. 

What’s the difference between an STD and an STI?

Although these two sound similar, they should not be used interchangeably. An STI refers to an infection, which means it has not yet progressed into a disease. STIs are typically passed through sexual activities by bodily fluids or skin-to-skin contact. STDs are diseases that result from an STI. All STDs come from infections, but not all infections will develop into a disease. For example, HPV is a common STI. It often goes away before it turns into a disease like genital warts. 

How easily are STDs spread?

STDs are relatively common, as they can be transmitted through blood, saliva, semen, and vaginal secretions. There are different risks associated with each kind of STD and STI, and some may be more easily spread through a different medium than others. Without using a condom or a dental dam, sexually active individuals are at a much higher risk of contracting an STD and can spread diseases fairly easily. Other things that may increase your chances of contracting an STD include having sex at a younger age and having multiple sexual partners.

Are STDs transmitted every time you have sex?

Although STDs are prevalent, they are not transmitted consistently each time you have sex. Many factors can affect whether or not you or your partner will pass on an STD, including:

  • What type of sex you have
  • Type of infection
  • How long you have sex for
  • Whether you have broken skin or open sores
  • And more 
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How quickly do STD symptoms show up?

The speed at which you will begin to see signs of an STD or test positive for the disease depends on the kind of infection that you have. An infection could appear in as little as 4 to 5 days or as long as 5 weeks. It's possible you won’t have noticeable symptoms until months after you have contracted the disease. This is why it's necessary to get regularly tested and contact your doctor if you notice anything unusual. 

How long do STD screening results take?

The type of test you received at your healthcare provider's office will determine how quickly you will get your results back. In general, most results are typically received within 2 to 3 days. 

What do I do if I get a positive STD test?

If you test positive for an STD, the best practice is to follow your doctor’s recommendation for treatment. Most STDs can be treated with medication and will go away following the end of your treatment regimen. Once you are diagnosed, you should tell any sexual partners you have recently had that you have tested positive so that they too can get tested. While some STDs are incurable, they are reasonably manageable to live with. People can have an STD and still have sex, be in a relationship, and lead normal lives. 

What happens if I don’t get treatment for my STD?

There are many risks associated with untreated STDs. First and foremost, you can continue to infect other people, which could be detrimental to their health. You may also begin to develop complications like infertility, damage to your organs, and even develop cancer. Some STDs can increase your odds of transmitting HIV, if not treated properly. Finally, pregnant women can pass down their STD to the fetus, which can have severe complications for the pregnancy. Therefore, it is very important to get STD tested regularly and if you are experiencing any symptoms. 

Bottom Line

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are widespread in the United States. The only way to know if you have contracted a disease is by getting tested for STDs regularly. In general, you should get tested for most STDs at least once a year if you are sexually active. If you engage in unprotected sex or are more susceptible to certain diseases, you should get tested at least every six months to be safe. 

STD testing can be expensive, but Mira offers affordable STD testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and more. In addition, Mira Mira can help you get 80% off over 1,000 different prescription medications. Prioritize your sexual health; sign up for Mira today.