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Planned Parenthood

STD Testing

STD Testing at a Glance

  • You must ask for an STD test if you want to be tested
  • STD tests are easy to get
  • Consider testing if you have had unprotected sex, even if you don't have symptoms
  • There are different tests for different STDs

You might be wondering if you need a test for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You might be wondering if your partner needs one. Or you may simply be interested in learning more about STD testing. Whatever the reason, the more information you have, the better you can protect your sexual health.

If you think you may have been exposed to an infection, getting tested for STDs is a great way to protect your sexual health. It's also a great way to protect the health of your sex partners.

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Should I Get Tested for STDs?

If you have symptoms of an STD, it's important to be tested. Some common symptoms of STDs include sores on the genitals, discharge from the penis or vagina, itching, and burning during urination.

But remember, many infections often do not cause any symptoms. Many people have sexually transmitted infections and never know it. Many people get or spread infections without ever having symptoms.

If you've had sex with another person and did not use a condom, female condom, dental dam, or other barrier, it's a good idea to talk to your health care provider about STD testing. Getting tested can put your mind at ease or get you (and your partner) needed treatment. It's also important to learn about ways you and your partner can protect yourselves in the future through safer sex.

How Do I Get Tested for STDs?

You must ask your health care provider to give you an STD test.

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. This is not true — you will not automatically be tested for STDs.

If you are seeing your health care provider for another reason, and are not sure if you need an STD test, just ask. Your provider can help you decide if you need any tests, and which one(s) you may need.

Where Can I Get an STD Test?

Which STD Tests Do I Need?

There is no single test for every sexually transmitted disease — tests are specific to each infection. And some infections can be found using different kinds of tests. 

You and your health care provider will decide what STD tests make the most sense for you. In most cases, your provider will first ask you questions about

  • your sexual practices — such as how many partners you have, whether you use condoms or other barrier methods, and what body parts are used during sex play
  • whether you have symptoms — and to describe the symptoms if you do have any
  • whether you have had symptoms in the past
  • whether you've ever had any STDs
  • whether you have used over-the-counter medications to treat your symptoms
  • whether your partner(s) have any STDs or symptoms of STDs
  • any drug allergies you may have
  • your last period, if you're a woman — to see if you could be pregnant

It is important to be honest with your health care provider. Your provider will be helping you make important decisions about what test(s) you may need.

How Are STD Tests Done?

It depends on which infection you may have. And some infections can be tested for in more than one way. Your test may include a

  • physical exam — Your health care provider may look at your genitals and/or your anus for any signs of an infection, such as a rash, discharge, sores, or warts. For women, this exam can be similar to a pelvic exam.
  • blood sample — Your provider may take a blood sample, either with a needle or by pricking the skin to draw drops of blood.
  • urine sample — You may be asked to urinate into a special cup.
  • discharge, tissue, cell, or saliva sample — Your provider will use a swab to collect samples that will be looked at under a microscope.

Sometimes a diagnosis can be made based on your symptoms and/or a physical exam. Treatment could be prescribed right away. Other times, your health care provider may need to send a sample to a lab to be tested. In that case, the results may not be available for several days or weeks.

Do People Under 18 Need Their Parents’ Permission for STD Testing?

In general, parental permission is not needed for STD testing. However, there may be certain locations where, for one reason or another, a health care provider will require parental permission or may notify a parent about testing.  

Planned Parenthood’s policy is to protect confidentiality to the extent the law allows. Laws vary from state to state.

Whether you come to a Planned Parenthood health center or go somewhere else for testing, if you concerned about confidentiality, ask your health care provider about your local laws and policies.

STD Testing Quick Reference Guide

Which STD is being tested?

  What's the Test?

HIV/AIDS

  • blood test
  • oral swab test — a special tool is used to test cells from inside the mouth
  • urine test (rarely used)

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
(affects only women)

  • pelvic exam
  • test of vaginal discharge

Chlamydia

  • physical exam
  • test of discharge from the anus, urethra, or vagina
  • test of a cell sample — cells from the cervix, penis, vagina, or anus
  • urine test

Cytomegalovirus

  • blood test

Genital Warts

  • physical exam — some warts can be seen by the naked eye during a pelvic exam. A special tool called a colposcope may be used to detect warts that are too small to be seen by the naked eye.

Gonorrhea

  • test of discharge from the anus, urethra, or vagina
  • test of a cell sample — cells from the cervix, penis, anus, or throat
  • urine test

Hepatitis B

  • blood test

Herpes

  • blood test
  • test of fluid taken from a herpes sore

 

High-Risk HPV

 

  • no HPV test for men
  • test of cell samples from the cervix

Intestinal Parasites

  • test of a stool (feces) sample
  • proctoscopy may be needed — a test that involves a health care provider inserting a thin lighted tube into the rectum

Molluscum Contagiosum 

  • physical exam
  • test of a cell sample

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

(affects only women)

  • pelvic exam
  • blood test
  • test of discharge from the cervix or vagina
  • laparoscopy — a special instrument is inserted through a small cut in the navel to look at the reproductive organs

Pubic Lice 

  • physical exam
  • may be self-diagnosed based on symptoms

Scabies

  • physical exam
  • may be self-diagnosed based on symptoms
  • test of a cell sample
  • biopsy may be necessary

Syphilis 

  • blood test
  • test of fluid taken from a syphilis sore

Trichomoniasis

  • test of discharge from the vagina or urethra
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STD Testing