What is an STI test?
An STI test will tell you if you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). A health professional, such as a doctor or nurse, performs the test, which is quick and painless. This is a good time to ask questions about other aspects of sexual health. It's really important to have an STI test even if you don't have any symptoms.
Who should have an STI test?
If you are having sex, you need to have an STI test. If you have any symptoms or worries about your sexual health, arrange a test right away with a doctor or nurse practitioner.
Why get an STI test?
- You think you might have an STI.
- You have had unprotected sex, that is, without a condom or oral dam - including vaginal, oral and anal sex.
- You have had a condom break or it has fallen off during sex.
- Your partner has another sexual partner or has had previous sexual partners.
- You have shared equipment for injecting drugs.
- You are starting a new sexual relationship.
If you are unsure whether you need an STI test, talk to a doctor, nurse practitioner or contact the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Health Centre.
What happens during an STI test?
You see a qualified health professional, like a doctor or nurse practitioner, who usually begins by asking you about your sexual history and activities. Some of these questions may seem quite personal, such as:
- What is your sexual orientation (e.g. straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual)?
- How many sexual partners have you had?
- What are your sexual practices?
- Do you have any symptoms?
- Have you injected drugs?
- Do you have tattoos or body piercings?
While you and your health care provider are having this talk, this is a good time to ask any questions about your sexual health that may be worrying you. All information is kept confidential.
After obtaining information about your sexual activity, the doctor or nurse may perform an examination. Most of the time STI testing is done by a simple blood or urine test.
Getting the results
Test results are normally received in one to two weeks. If your result is positive, sexual partners also need to be tested and treated. Otherwise, you could keep re-infecting each other. The person who tests positive will not be identified to their sexual partners.
Even before the results come back, a person with symptoms of an STI can begin treatment. Remember most STIs can be cured. STIs that cannot be cured can now be managed well. It is important to see your doctor or nurse practitioner about treatment options.
It is important to remember that a pap test does not test for STIs. A pap test is a simple test that can help prevent cancer of the cervix. It is a way to pick up any changes in the cells of your cervix. If you have a cervix and are sexually active, start pap testing at age 21. Unless your doctor or health care provider tells you otherwise, have a pap test once a year for three years in a row. If your results are normal for those three years, after that you can have a pap test once every three years.
- For further information on pap testing, talk to your health care provider, or contact the provincial coordinating office toll free at 1-866-643-8719.