STD testing can be quick, painless, and sometimes even free. STD testing isn’t usually included in regular medical exams — you have to ask for it.
Do I need to ask my doctor for an STD test?
STD testing isn’t always part of your regular checkup or gynecologist exam. So make sure to ask for STD testing. Be honest with your nurse or doctor about your sex life, so they can help you figure out which tests are best for you.
Talking about STD testing might feel awkward, but try not to be embarrassed. Remember, doctors have seen and heard it all. Most people get an STD at least once in their lives, and getting tested is the responsible thing to do — it means you’re taking good care of your health.
Here are some ways you can bring up STD testing with a nurse or doctor:
I’ve never been tested for STDs. Do I need to be?
Have you ever tested me for any STDs during my checkups?
What STDs should I watch out for? How will I know if I need to get tested?
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your regular doctor about STDs, you can always go to your nearest Planned Parenthood health center — judgment-free testing and treatment is our specialty.
How will I know what STD tests I need?
Your nurse or doctor will help you figure out which tests you need. You’ll talk about:
Any symptoms you’re having
If you or your partner has ever had an STD before
The number of people you’ve had sex with
The kind of sexual contact you’ve had — like oral, anal, or vaginal sex, or anything that involves skin-to-skin genital contact or passing sexual fluids
How often you use protection, like condoms and dental dams
Other things you do that increase your chances of getting certain infections (like sharing needles)
This will help your nurse or doctor figure out which STD tests make the most sense for you. Make sure you’re open and honest with them, so you can get the care you need. Try not to feel embarrassed: Your doctor is there to help you, not to judge you.
What happens when I get tested for STDs?
STD testing is quick, easy, and it usually doesn’t hurt. There’s not a single test for all STDs — each STD has its own test. Your doctor can help you figure out which tests you need. STD testing may include:
A urine test — you just pee into a cup.
An oral test — you just rub the inside of your mouth or throat with a soft swab.
A blood test — your nurse or doctor takes blood from your arm or a quick finger prick.
A physical exam — your nurse or doctor looks at your genital area to check for warts, sores, rashes, irritation, or discharge.
A blister or sore swab — your nurse or doctor takes a sample of fluid from any sores or blisters you have with a swab.
A genital swab — your nurse or doctor will gently take discharge or cell samples from your anus, vagina, or penis.
You can get tested for most STDs whether or not you have any symptoms. Some STDs look and act alike, so you might be tested for a few different infections.
Your doctor may be able to tell right away if you have an STD. But some tests take a few days or weeks to come back from a lab. Many clinics can do rapid testing for HIV — you’ll get your result in about 20 minutes.
If you don’t hear back from your doctor after your STD test, don’t assume everything’s okay. Call them to find out for sure what your results are.
What should I do if I find out I have an STD?
Finding out that you have an STD can be a bummer. You might feel mad, embarrassed, or upset at first. But try not to freak out — you’ll be okay and you’re not alone.
The best thing to do when you find out you have an STD is to follow your doctor’s directions for treating it. You should also tell anyone you’re having sex with, so they can get tested and treatment if they need it. It’s not the easiest conversation, but it’s an important one. Here are some tips to help.
Many STDs can be easily cured with medication, so you can just finish your treatment and get on with your life. And even though some STDs can’t be cured, there are lots of ways to treat your symptoms and prevent you from giving your STD to anyone you have sex with.
People with STDs can be in relationships, have sex, and live totally normal lives. Most people get an STD at least once, and millions are living with STDs now. Having an STD is nothing to feel ashamed of, and it doesn’t mean you’re “dirty” or a bad person — it just means you’re a pretty normal human who got an infection. The reality is that STDs can happen to anybody who’s ever been sexual with someone, which is almost everybody on earth. And a few STDs can be spread in non-sexual ways, too.
If you’re having a hard time dealing, leaning on your partner, a close friend, or family member may make you feel better. Counselors and therapists can also be sources of comfort — they’re trained to help you feel better, after all. There are also a lot of online and in-person support groups for people living with STDs, which can give you a safe place to talk with people who know what you’re going through.