Missouri has STIs. Do you? There’s only one way to find out: get yourself tested.
Many people know they should get tested for STIs, but aren’t sure how testing works or what to expect when they get to the health center. Sexually transmitted infections may seem scary, but getting yourself tested doesn’t have to be. Here are some of the most common questions we get about STI testing.
What does STI testing involve?
STI tests may look for things like gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas, HIV or syphilis. If you don’t have symptoms, STI testing involves providing a urine sample and/or a blood sample. The urine can be tested for gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomonas. The blood sample can be tested for HIV and syphilis.
If you do have symptoms, a clinician will evaluate your symptoms. The clinician may swab the symptomatic areas of your body for testing. They may also ask you to provide a urine sample and/or a blood sample. Although the clinician may be able to say whether or not you have an STI, the test can tell you for sure which STI you have, and will help identify the appropriate treatment.
How often should I be tested for STIs?
If you are sexually active, you should be tested at least once a year, even if you are in a monogamous relationship. If you have multiple partners, you ought to get tested before having sex with a new partner. If you don’t get tested before having sex, the next best time is 10 days after having sex with a new partner. After exposure, it can take up to 10 days for an infection to show up in an STI test.
If you have symptoms, you should make an appointment as soon as possible. The only way to know for sure if you have an STI is through testing. Some STI symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other conditions, so only a health care provider can determine if you have an STI or something else.
How long do STI test results take?
STI test results can take between five and 10 days. If you have testing done at Planned Parenthood, we’ll contact you ONLY if your results are positive. If this is the case, we’ll give you a call to ask you to come back for follow up. Planned Parenthood does not contact patients if the results are negative. Patients can view negative results in the Patient Portal. If you want to confirm a negative result or want a copy for your records, please call the health center or stop by for a copy.
If the result is positive or inconclusive, we will call you to notify you of the results and ask you to make a follow up appointment to receive treatment or further services. The call also gives you a chance to ask questions.
Do regular STI tests include herpes?
No. If you don’t have symptoms, STI testing includes gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas, HIV and syphilis, and only involves time with a medical assistant. The Centers for Disease Control does not recommend herpes testing for people without symptoms.
If you think you’ve been exposed to herpes, but you aren’t showing symptoms, make sure to tell your health care provider prior to getting tested. At Planned Parenthood, herpes testing requires a visit with the nurse practitioner.
Does a Pap smear test for STIs?
No. Pap smears, also known as pap tests or cervical smears, are cervical cancer screenings. Although many cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), an STI, pap smears are not the same as an HPV test. Regular STI tests do not check for HPV either, and HPV testing often isn’t needed until age 30.
Again, the only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to get tested for STIs.
Can I get an STI test on my period?
Yes. You may get an STI test at any point during your menstrual cycle, even on your heaviest days. Your cycle should not affect the results. If you are concerned about heavy bleeding, the best thing to do is to make an appointment anyway and talk to a clinician about the issue.
How do you get an STI test?
You can get an STI test by making an appointment online at any Planned Parenthood location. All of our locations offer STI testing, whether or not you have symptoms.
We offer free STI testing for those who are eligible, as some restrictions may apply. If you’re interested in free STI testing, please make an appointment online today or give us a call at 314-531-7526 or 417-883-3800 for more information.
Donna White is a nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.