STI Testing: The Who, What, Where, When and Why

Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is an absolutely vital part of sexual health, both for the sake of your wellbeing and that of anyone you come into sexual contact with. When you have an STI, there are often no symptoms to alert you to the fact that you have been infected, meaning that you could be passing it on to others and letting your own wellness deteriorate without even realising. Therefore, you need to take control of your health by using condoms and getting tested for STIs.


Once you begin having sex, it’s a good idea to have regular sexual health check-ups. Whether you have multiple sexual partners or you’re starting a new relationship, you and your partner need to be tested – and recently tested – before you stop using condoms. If you have had unsafe sex, or some of the symptoms of STIs such as pain, discharge or itching in your genital area, you should consult your doctor. Most STIs are treatable but, if left untreated, you may end up experiencing some unpleasant symptoms and even long-term problems such as infertility.


Having a test is simple and painless, and easily available from your local GP, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic. There is no single test to detect all STIs, which means you’ll have to have a chat with your doctor about your specific symptoms. Your doctor will also want to discuss your sexual history, so be prepared to talk about that. It can be tempting to lie about or paint a rosier view of your sexual history, but you need to be completely truthful. Even if you’re embarrassed, your doctor will need to use the information from your conversation to work out the tests you should have.


If you have an STI such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia, a simple test will be able to pick up the STI soon after you have been infected, even if you haven’t shown any obvious signs or symptoms. However, other STIs – like HIV – won’t show a positive result as quickly and your doctor will advise you on when to be re-tested. As a general rule, the testing will involve a blood sample, urine sample, swab or just a physical examination – depending on which STI is being looked for. Lots of places provide low-cost or even free STI testing for young people, but you’ll need to ask when you make your appointment, and maybe look online for the most price-efficient option in your local area. The cost also depends on the tests required.


If you’re worried or embarrassed about someone else finding out about your STI test, you don’t need to be concerned. Your doctor will be legally obliged to keep information that you give him or her confidential, regardless of how old you are. The only exception would be if you are under the age of 16 and an issue of your safety arises. However, the results of STI testing are completely confidential. The results are stored in your medical files and sexual health clinics normally keep separate records to the files kept by your doctor or local hospital. That said, if you do test positive for an STI, you absolutely need to tell your recent sexual partners so that they can be tested too. One of them may have passed it on to you unknowingly, and may be doing so with other people. To help minimise the embarrassment of getting in touch with former partners, many clinics will provide you with letters or other ways to ease the process.

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