This choice isn't for you if you believe you've been exposed to an STI or you have symptoms of an STI. You need to have a test as soon as possible.
This topic doesn't cover decisions about testing for HIV or testing for hepatitis B and C. For more information see: HIV Testing: Should I Get Tested for Human Immunodeficiency Virus? and Hepatitis B and C: Should I Be Tested?
Sexually transmitted infections are diseases spread by sexual contact. Some of the most common STIs are:
Left untreated, some STIs can lead to serious problems. For example:
Treatment is available for all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to relieve symptoms, even if a cure isn't possible.
Some of the most common STIs—chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis—are caused by bacteria and are treated and cured with antibiotics.
STIs caused by viruses, such as genital herpes and genital warts, aren't cured with antibiotics. But treatments are available to relieve symptoms.
Having a routine STI test means getting tested even though you don't have symptoms of an infection. Experts say that certain groups should be routinely tested for certain STIs. Some expert opinions may vary, and your doctor may recommend testing based on your personal history.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends a chlamydia test for all high-risk nonpregnant and pregnant women.
You have a high risk of getting chlamydia if:
The USPSTF recommends a gonorrhea test for all high-risk nonpregnant and pregnant women.
You have a high risk of getting gonorrhea if:
The USPSTF recommends a syphilis test for all men and women at high risk and all pregnant women.
You have a high risk of getting syphilis if you:
Tests for STIs are fairly simple. If you have a test for chlamydia or gonorrhea, a nurse or doctor will test for bacteria that cause the infections. You may have a urine test, or the doctor may take a sample of body fluid from the throat, inside the tip of the penis, or inside the rectum or vagina. A gonorrhea culture test also may be done to see if the bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.
A syphilis test looks for antibodies to the bacteria that cause syphilis. Your doctor may do a blood test or may test body fluid or tissue. A follow-up test may be done to confirm the infection.
Getting tested can help find an infection early or when you have no symptoms. This is important so that:
Your doctor may want you to be tested if:
|Get tested for STIs||Don't get tested for STIs|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"I just broke up with my partner. I thought we were in a monogamous relationship. But then I found out he was having sex with other people while we were together. I have an appointment to get tested right away. I don't want to risk giving an infection to someone else."
— Jason, age 20
"I'm a newlywed and just found out I'm pregnant! My doctor says I'll need to have an STI test, and I think that's crazy because I know my husband is faithful to me. But my doctor said all pregnant women should be tested, so I'm going to do it. I want to make sure that I have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby."
— Serena, age 23
"I had a test several months ago, and it was negative. I haven't had symptoms of any STIs since. I'm not in a relationship, and I haven't had sex with anyone since the test, so I don't think a test is necessary for me now."
— Heather, age 30
"I don't plan to have a test now. My doctor says I'm at pretty low risk since I haven't had sex with anyone since my wife and I split up a few years ago. But if I meet someone, I may do it and ask her to do the same. I think it would be a pretty hard conversation to have, though."
— Bob, age 45
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to get tested for STIs
Reasons not to get tested for STIs
I'm in a high-risk group for getting an STI.
I don't think I have a high risk of getting an STI.
I'm worried that I could have an STI that doesn't cause symptoms.
I have no reason to think that I might have an STI.
I'm worried that if I have an STI and don't get treatment, I could have serious problems.
I don't believe that I need treatment for an STI.
I want to be sure I'm not spreading an STI to anyone.
I don't think there's any chance I could be spreading an infection to anyone.
I'm not worried that I could have a false-positive or false-negative test result.
I am worried about having a false-positive or false-negative test result.
I feel that I could tell my sex partner(s) that I'm going to have a test.
I'm worried that if I tell my sex partner(s) I'm going to have a test, it would affect our relationship.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
Having an STI test
NOT having an STI test
1. If I don't have any symptoms of an STI, I don't need a test.
2. If I'm a woman and don't know if I have an infection, I could spread it to others and develop serious problems if I don't get treatment.
3. If I'm younger than 25, I need an STI test, because everyone that age has a high risk for getting an STI.
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Peter Shalit, MD, PhD - Internal Medicine|