10 Things You Need to Know About Getting Tested for STDs

There are a lot of STDs out there, some of which you may have never even heard of. Regardless of whether or not you can name every one in the book, staying up to date is important. When it comes to the testing process, you may be surprised to learn there’s a variety of factors that come into play. And there’s no better time than now to brush up on the subject, so here are 10 things you need to know about getting tested.

1. Everyone should get tested, because not all STDs have symptoms

beautiful happy woman in a sunny day

It’s possible to have an STD without any symptoms. | iStock.com/Tverdohlib

It makes sense to go to the doctor when you notice something out of the ordinary. But what’s not so common is making an appointment when you don’t actually think anything is wrong. For instance, going to an orthopedic surgeon to make sure your arm isn’t broken when you have zero symptoms or pain would be wacky. Going in to get tested for STDs, on the other hand, is essential. Even if you show no symptoms, it’s important to stay on top of this, as there are a handful of STDs you could have without even knowing it.

2. Your doctor will not automatically test for STDs

female doctor writing notes while talking to a patient

You need to speak up if you want your doctor to test for STDs. | iStock.com

You need to communicate with your doctor if you want testing done, because it’s not part of a typical exam. “Some people assume they will be tested for STDs when they have an exam for another reason, such as when a woman has a Pap test or when a man has a physical,” Planned Parenthood says. “This is not true — you will not automatically be tested for STDs.” So, if you want to be tested, you need to specifically tell your doctor.

3. Be fully honest with your doctor

doctor looking at ipad

Your doctor needs to know about your sexual history in order to determine the best tests for you. | iStock.com

Discussing your sexual history can be awkward, but it’s imperative you be 100% honest with your health care provider. In most cases, testing clinics are just happy you’re there in the first place. These kinds of questions are designed to help your doctor determine which tests he or she should perform. If you don’t answer honestly, you’re only putting yourself at risk.

For example, the CDC has testing guidelines based on certain populations. Testing recommendations differ for pregnant women, adolescents, same-sex couples, and beyond. After all, you don’t want to forgo a test that might help save your life.

4. Some STDs might not show up until months after exposure

woman writing on a calendar

It’s important to know when your most recent sexual encounter was. | iStock.com/Kwangmoozaa

There are different recommended testing times for different STDs, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about when your most recent sexual encounter was. This will help your doctor determine the best time to actually perform the test, based not only on the timeline you provide, but also the kind of test you’re requesting. For example, One Medical suggests waiting two weeks for gonorrhea and chlamydia, one week to three months for syphilis, and six weeks to three months for HIV, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B.

5. Make sure it’s been at least an hour since you last used the bathroom

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Wait until you get to the office or clinic before going to the bathroom. | iStock.com

Some tests, such as those used to detect chlamydia and gonorrhea, require you to pee in a cup. Therefore, it’s important to know the longer you hold urine in, the better. According to The STD Project, “[C]hlamydia and gonorrhea bacteria flush out and are harder to detect when having urinated recently; however, after a longer duration of time, they come back again.” Peeing profusely, though, will not rid your body of an STD.

6. There are different tests for different STDs

Doctor holding a bottle of urine sample

Urine samples can test for some STDs. | iStock.com/Csaba Deli

There’s no one-size-fits-all STD test. And because there are so many types, there are different ways to test for each. With an easy-to-read infographic, BuzzFeed breaks it all down: A urine test is used to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea; a blood test is used for HIV, syphilis, herpes, and hepatitis B; and a swab test is used for HPV, herpes, chlamydia, bacterial vaginosis, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. Additionally, an oral cheek swab can test for HIV, while a physical exam can check for genital warts and bacterial vaginosis.

7. Everyone should get an HIV test at least once in their life

Blood collection tube with HIV test label

It’s recommended everyone should get an HIV test. | iStock.com/dina2001

HIV is often considered one of the most serious STDs, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says everyone should get tested at least once in their lifetime. The organization recommends anyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested as part of their routine health care.

8. Both confidential and anonymous testing are available

Patient reading a magazine in the doctor’s waiting room

Some STD test sites offer anonymous testing. | iStock.com/cwzahner

STD testing is a very personal thing, so privacy is of the utmost importance. According to Aids.gov, people looking to get tested have a choice between confidential testing and anonymous testing. If you opt for confidential, your name and other information are attached to your test results, and those results become part of your medical history. Additionally, this information may be shared with your providers and insurance company.

With anonymous testing, on the other hand, you’re given a unique identifier at the time of testing. You don’t have to give your name or any other important information. While this is an option at some places, it’s important to know not all HIV test sites offer this. So, do your research first.

9. Positive test results are reported to your local health department

taking a blood sample

Your results will be reported to the health department. | Chris Hondros/Getty Images

It’s imperative local health departments know about infectious diseases in a given area. That way, they can ensuring proper health care and preventative measures are taken. “With confidential testing, if you test positive for HIV or another sexually transmitted infection (STI), the test result and your name will be reported to the state or local health department to help public health officials get better estimates of the rates of HIV in the state,” Aids.gov says. Before sharing the information with the CDC, though, the state health department will remove any personal identifiers, such as your name and address.

10. A positive result isn’t the end of the world

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There are plenty of treatment plans available. | iStock.com

Yes, learning you have an STD is a scary moment. When you walked into the doctor’s office, you were happy and seemingly healthy as could be. But now, you’ve been deemed sick. While it can be shocking at first, try to remain calm and remember there’s support out there.

Some STDs have relatively easy cures, like a dose of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. Others, while not curable today, do have treatment options. If you find yourself in this position, know it’s not a death sentence. There are ways to effectively manage symptoms that can help you live a long, fulfilling life.