From chlamydia to gonorrhea, genital herpes, syphilis and HIV, there’s a whole range of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to watch out for. It’s possible to get these infections without displaying any symptoms too, meaning you can’t always tell if you have been affected. This is why, if you’ve had unprotected sex and think there’s even a small chance that you’ve contracted an STI, it’s wise to get tested.

This brief guide talks you through the basics of STI testing and should help ensure you know what to expect if you go through this process.

Visiting a clinic or ordering tests online

There are many different places to go for these medical assessments. Some GP surgeries offer STI testing services and so you may wish to speak to your doctor about your options. Alternatively, you could visit your local sexual health clinic or genitourinary medicine clinic. You may be required to book an appointment in these centers, but many offer drop-in services. During your appointment, a doctor or nurse will ask you questions about your medical and sexual history, such as when you last had sex and why you think you may be at risk, and they will also ask you whether you have any symptoms. STI testing services for certain infections, including chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV, are also available in-store and online from pharmacies.

What do the tests involve?

A doctor or nurse will be able to advise you on the tests you should take and they will talk you through the process. If you’re not sure about anything, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s important that you feel informed throughout the medical assessments. Depending on what you’re tested for, you may need to provide a urine or blood sample or have swabs taken from your urethra or vagina. You might also need to have an examination of your genitals.

Getting your results

With certain tests, you may get your results the same day. However, it often takes longer for the results to come back. In some cases, you can expect to wait a week or two before you are contacted. Your clinic may get in touch with you by phone or letter, or if you order tests online, your results could be uploaded to your confidential patient profile. If you test positive, you may be asked to return to the clinic, or you could be sent a treatment through the post. Many STIs can be cured with a course of antibiotics. However, some infections, including HIV, have no cure. There are treatments available though and your clinic will be able to advise you on your options, and if necessary put you in touch with a counselor.

As well as seeking treatment if you have an STI, it’s important to tell your sexual partner and any previous partners who may be at risk. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, your clinic might offer to contact these people for you. This is called partner notification and your identity won’t be disclosed.

Getting tested for STIs can seem like a daunting prospect, but the process may be more straightforward than you think and it can play an important role in protecting your health.