Common Questions About STD Tests
Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions on STD testing:
1. What are the signs that I might need an STD test??
If you experience the following signs and symptoms within days or weeks since your last sexual encounter, you should consider getting tested for STDs.
- Unusual discharges from your genitals
- Painful sexual intercourse and/or urination
- Blisters, sores, or warts in your mouth, genitals, and anus
- Itching and/or bleeding in your genital area
2. How frequently should I get tested for STDs?
Sexually active people should test at least once a year or every three to six months for chlamydia, gonorrhea, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and syphilis.1
Adults and adolescents aged 13 to 64 should test for HIV at least once in their lifetime. People who engage in other sexual behaviors or share injections should get an HIV test once a year.1
3. Which type of doctor should I see for STD testing?
For most cases, a general practitioner, gynecologist, or a urologist is enough. However, some people may need an infectious disease doctor. Here are your options:
- General practitioner or family physician – diagnoses and treats STDs
- Gynecologist or obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) – for women with STD symptoms
- Genitourinary specialist or urologist – for men and women with STDs
- Infectious disease doctor – for people with chronic STDs like HIV
4. How do doctors test for sexually transmitted diseases?
A doctor may order blood testing, urine testing, or swab testing to diagnose your condition. The type of test they’ll prescribe depends on your symptoms.
To help them decide which tests to give you, a doctor or nurse will get your medical and sexual history and examine your genitals. Women with STD symptoms may also need a pelvic exam.
Based on your interview and the findings from your physical exam, the doctor may collect blood, urine, and swab samples from your genitals, sores, discharges, or inside your mouth.
The lab results will help your doctor confirm which type of STD you have.
5. Where can I go to get an STD test?
You can get tested for sexually transmitted diseases in many private and public institutions. Here are some places where you can go:
- Doctor’s office
- Sexual health clinics
- Urgent care centers
- Mobile clinics
- Government-funded health clinics
- Local health departments
- Non-profit (e.g., Planned Parenthood)
Alternatively, you can test for some types of STDs at home. Companies like LetsGetChecked and EverlyWell offer at-home STD testing kits which you can buy online.
6. How long does it take to get STD results?
STD test results take anywhere from a day to three weeks, depending on the type of test performed. Here are the average timelines for different STD tests:
- At-home STD tests – two to five days
- Chlamydia testing – two to three days
- Gonorrhea testing – two to three days
- Herpes testing – one to fourteen days
- Rapid HIV testing – thirty minutes or less
- Standard HIV testing – days to weeks
- HPV testing – one to three weeks
- Syphilis testing – seven to ten days
- Trichomoniasis testing – one to three days
7. Are at-home STD tests accurate?
It depends. Factors like the testing method used, the quality of the samples, and the laboratory where samples are analyzed can affect the accuracy of at-home STD tests.
When collecting samples, be sure to follow the instructions that came with your kit. Choose a company with Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certified laboratories.
These standards may help ensure you get accurate results. Keep in mind that at-home STD kits only test for some types of sexually transmitted diseases.
8. How much does an STD test cost?
STD tests cost $80 to upwards of $400 if we factor in the doctor’s fees. Actual costs may vary depending on which test you take and where you’re taking it.
Here are the average price ranges for different types of STD tests:
- At-home STD tests – $99 to $249
- STD testing at a doctor’s office – $400 and above
- STD testing at Planned Parenthood – $80 to $270
Low-cost health clinics may offer free or affordable STD tests for people who qualify.
9. Is STD testing covered by health insurance?
STD tests are typically covered by most health insurance companies. Coverage depends on your age, location, and the type of STD test needed.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), all insurance plans must cover HIV tests for people aged 15 to 65 or anyone with a high risk for HIV.2 Other STD tests may or may not be covered.
At-home STD tests are not usually covered by health insurance.2 California is the only state where insurance providers are required to cover at-home STD testing.3
It’s best that you talk to your provider to determine your coverage. Ask them how much they’re willing to cover and discuss out-of-pocket costs.
10. Are STD tests confidential?
People diagnosed with STDs are usually protected by patient confidentiality.4 However, it may depend on the patient’s age and condition.
For example, most states allow teenagers who are at least 13 years old to take an STD test without their parent’s involvement.5
But in cases where children aged 12 years and below test positive for a sexually transmitted disease, the doctor may alert the parents and/or law enforcement.
Laboratories and healthcare providers are also required by law to report cases of sexually transmitted infections for public health monitoring.6
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) allows the sharing of protected health information (PHI), such as your name and age, to public health authorities.7
- “Which STD Tests Should I Get?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- “Does Health Insurance Cover Sexual Health Services?” Planned Parenthood.
- “At Home Testing for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Senate Bill 306 (Pan, Chapter 486, Statutes of 2021) Fact Sheet.” California Department of Public Health.
- “Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Duty to Warn.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- “How Do I Get Checked for STDs Without My Parents Knowing?” Nemours Children’s Health.
- “Sexually Transmitted Infections Treatment Guidelines, 2021: Reporting and Confidentiality.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- “Frequently Asked Questions About STD and HIV Reporting.” Minnesota Department of Health.