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Home / Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) / STI testing: where and how to get tested

STI testing: where and how to get tested

Learn more about how to get tested for an STI

Your sexual health is a very important part of your physical health and if you're sexually active, it's important to get tested for STIs on a regular basis. Luckily, there are plenty of places where you can get tested - both in your community and online. In this article, we'll discuss the different types of STI tests available, as well as how, where and what to expect when you get tested. We'll also provide a few tips on making the process easier and more convenient for you. Read on for information on how to keep yourself healthy and safe.

Why should I get tested for STIs?

STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are common diseases that are spread easily through sexual intercouse. It’s not just through vaginal sex, however. STIs can be spread via oral sex and anal sex as well which makes them a lot easier to catch than other conditions. In fact, the UK government estimated in 2017 that an STI was diagnosed every 4 minutes Trusted source UK Government Services and Information Government Source Go to source in young people which was around 144,000 diagnoses.

Not only are they easy to spread, but STIs are also difficult to spot. STIs such as syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhoea largely occur asymptomatically which means you can spread them to others unknowingly. Even if STI symptoms occur, it’s easy to mistake them for a range of conditions such as thrush, urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bacterial vaginosis. The only way to truly know if you have an STI, is to get tested.

STIs rarely go away on their own. Therefore, not getting tested and leaving an STD untreated can result in complications. Often the bacteria can spread around the body, causing conditions like PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), ectopic pregnancies, testicle inflammation and even infertility.

Where can I get tested for STIs?

If you think you have an STI or have no symptoms and want a routine checkup, the most accessible way is to go to a sexual health clinic, sometimes known as a GUM clinic (genitourinary medicine). Most STD screening services in your area will be free and won’t require an appointment. They will also offer free barrier contraceptives (condoms), contraception (including emergency contraception), pregnancy testing and free sexual health advice.

If you’re nervous about going somewhere in-person, there are also plenty of remote testing options available. Most community sexual health clinics will have a remote testing service where you can pick up an STI test over the counter or have an STI home test kit delivered to you. You can perform the test in the comfort of your own home and post it back.

A condom wrapper, stethoscope and pill strip on red background.

How do I get tested for STIs?

When you go to a sexual health clinic or order an online test kit, you will first be asked a few questions about your sexual history and symptoms. They may also conduct a quick physical exam.

Then you will do the test. A sexual health practitioner may do it or you may be asked to do it yourself. The type of test you do will depend on the STI you are testing for.

The most common and preferred way of testing is a swab test. This involves taking a sample of the vulva, rectum or urethra using a long cotton swab. It may be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t hurt and is usually over in seconds. You will usually require a swab for STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea as well as STIs with more visible symptoms like genital herpes and genital warts. Some rarer STIs may also be diagnosed by a vaginal swab test such as trichomoniasis and mycoplasma genitalium.

Another common STI test is a urine test. You will be given a small container to collect the urine sample. This test is sometimes used to detect chlamydia, gonorrhoea and ureaplasma urealyticum.

The final test you may need to have done for STDs is a blood test which is usually obtained via a finger prick test. Hepatitis B & C, syphilis and HIV testing (human immunodeficiency viruses) are the main STDs that require a blood sample, but some home STI test kits may also offer chlamydia and gonorrhoea. If you think you may have genital herpes and are not experiencing any visible blisters, you may also require a blood test. You can find out more about testing for genital herpes and other herpes viruses on our website.

Once you have completed your test, you may receive results instantly. However for most tests, you will have to wait up to a week or longer if it’s a more intensive test. You will receive a phone call, text message or letter notifying you of your test results.

Can I do an STI test on my period?

Yes, even on one of your heaviest days, your period won’t affect the results of an STD test. These tests are incredibly sensitive and can detect the underlying cause at any point during your menstrual cycle.

Close up of doctor holding swab test tube.

What should I do if I test positive for an STI?

Whilst it may be a worrying message to receive, don’t panic. STIs are easily curable and manageable. Here are some steps you can take if you receive a positive result:

  1. get treatment - you can get a prescription from your sexual health clinic, GP or online healthcare provider
  2. tell your partner or last sexual partner (if possible) - they will also need to get tested, even if they’re not experiencing symptoms
  3. do not have sex - whilst condoms are generally effective at preventing spreading STIs, it may be safer to abstain until symptoms have fully disappeared or you test negative
  4. take a second test - this ensures you’re fully clear of the infection and you don’t spread it to anyone else

If you have been diagnosed with a recurring or chronic condition like genital herpes, HIV or AIDS, it can be a particularly worrying time. However, these conditions are perfectly manageable and many go on to live normal lives.

Close up of doctor and patient.

How can I protect myself from getting an STI in the future?

You can get an STI regardless of how many sexual partners you have so it’s important to take precautionary measures.

Here are some things you can do to keep yourself protected:

  • use condoms anytime you have sex, including anal and oral sex
  • be open with your partner about your sexual health
  • get tested regularly, especially if you frequently change partners or have started having sex with a new partner
  • use PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) which is a medication that prevents HIV transmission
  • clean sex toys - whilst transmission via sex toys is quite rare, it’s still good hygiene practice to clean them regularly
Couple’s feet in bed

Can I get STI treatment online?

Yes, if you or your partner have received a positive result, you can pick the right treatment online at euroClinix. We treat several STIs including chlamydia and genital herpes. All you have to do is fill out a quick medical questionnaire and the treatment will be shipped discreetly to your door the very next day.

Need to treat an STI?

Find out more here

Medically reviewed by Dr. Plauto Filho Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 20-09-2023
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