Take your sexual health seriously.
1 in 4 college students have an STD or STI, and almost half of the 20 million reported STIs in 2018 were from the age group of 15-24 years old. That’s a huge amount of students walking around with a disease that they can potentially pass to their partner.
So, how can you protect yourself if you’re looking to become intimate with someone? It’s an important thing to think about, especially since the highest number of STIs reported are among college students. Find out everything you need to know about testing, resources, treatment, and more.
- Do I Need to Ask My Doctor For an STD Test?
- How Will I Know What STD Tests I Need?
- How Soon Can You Test For an STD?
- Is STD Testing Free?
- What Happens When I Get Tested For STDs?
- What Should I Do if I Have an STD?
- How Often Should You Get Tested For STDs?
- Can an STD or STI Kill You?
- How to Prevent STDs & STIs
- What Happens if Chlamydia is Left Untreated?
- What Happens if Herpes Goes Untreated?
- Are STDs More Common at Some US Colleges?
Do I need to ask my doctor for an STD test?
Most likely yes. An STD exam isn’t always a part of your annual physical or gynecological exam. When in doubt, ask for a test so you know you’re covered. Honesty is also key here. Don’t lie about your sex life—your doctor needs to know what’s going on so they can give you the correct test.
How will I know what STD tests I need?
Building off what we just explained, telling your doctor about your sex life will help them determine which tests you’re going to need. They’ll be able to use that and any symptoms you may have to correctly diagnose you and administer the correct exam(s).
How soon can you test for an STD?
It varies based on the STD. Here’s a general timeline when it comes to testing for the most common STDs and STIs.
- Gonorrhea: 1 week
- Chlamydia: 1 week
- Syphilis: 2 weeks to 3 months
- HIV: 2 weeks to 3 months
- Hepatitis B: 2 weeks to 3 months
- Hepatitis C: 2 weeks to 3 months
STD warning signs
Symptoms and warning signs for STDs vary based on the type you’ve contracted. However, after having unprotected sex, if you experience any of the following symptoms, tell your doctor. You’re going to want to get tested.
- Painful or burning urination
- Lower abdominal pain
- Vaginal discharge in women, discharge from the penis in men
- Painful sexual intercourse in women
- Thick, cloudy, or bloody discharge from vagina or penis
- Heavy menstrual periods or spotting between periods in women
- Anal itching
- Cauliflower-shaped warts
- Itching or discomfort in gentials
- Bleeding during sexual intercourse
- Testicular pain in men
How accurate are STD tests?
Properly administered STD tests rarely give a false positive. The only time when STD tests may be inaccurate is if an at-home test has not been done properly. The most current research says the tests are about 95% to 99% accurate.
Is STD testing free?
It depends on the facility you visit. Some Planned Parenthood locations offer free STD testing. There are also other free and low-cost clinics around the country, but you’ll need to verify with them before you schedule your test to ensure your total cost.
Some doctor’s offices (depending on your health insurance) may also offer low-cost or free STD testing. Contact your primary healthcare provide to be sure.
How much does an STD test cost?
Every place that offers STD tests charges a different amount. It varies widely and often depends on the amount of STDs you’re testing for. Here’s a price breakdown of the most common places that offer STD tests and what they cost, on average.
Note that these prices are for those without insurance. If you have health insurance, your provider will likely cover a certain percentage of the cost, based on your coverage.
|Test Source||Cost||What is Tested|
|Fastmed||$149 to $399||Rapid HIV, Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Trichomoniasis|
|CityMD||$390||Rapid HIV, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Hepatitis B and C, Herpes, Syphilis, Trichomonas|
|Planned Parenthood||$130 to $270 (pricing depends on location & income)||Chlamydia, Genital Warts, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Trichomoniasis|
|QuestDirect||$29 to $379||Syphilis test, HIV tests, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia (full STD panel is $379)|
|LetsGetChecked||$99 to $249||Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Complete option includes Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, HIV, syphilis, gardnerella, mycoplasma, ureaplasma|
|Mylab Box||$59 to $299||Rapid UTI testing, Hepatitis B & C, HIV, Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Trichomoniasis, Mycoplasma Genitalium, HPV|
|Everlywell||$149||Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis C, HIV, Syphilis, HSV-2 & Trichomoniasis|
Is STD testing free at Planned Parenthood?
Some Planned Parenthood locations offer free STD testing. They will also be able to provide you with resources for STD prevention and potentially connect you with a health clinic where you can receive affordable testing.
Click here to find your local Planned Parenthood and contact them about their STD testing procedures and costs.
STD testing with or without insurance
If you have health insurance, STD testing is relatively simple. While is varies by policy, most will cover 100% of the cost for one annual visit. Just be sure to check your healthcare plan and with your doctor before you schedule.
However, you can still get an STD test even if you don’t have health insurance. Planned Parenthood will be able to connect you with a low-cost or free clinic in order to get tested, if they don’t provide it themselves.
If you’re on Medicaid, they will be able to provide you with a care clinic that offers a low-cost or free STD test.
What happens when I get tested for STDs?
STD tests are fairly straightforward. Your healthcare provider will first begin with a visual inspection of your genital area. Then, they will likely swab the infected area to take a sample for testing. Finally, they might request a blood test or urine sample to check for any other STDs or STIs.
How is an STD test done if you’re female?
For females, samples for an STD test will be taken from the vagina or cervix. This will be similar to your annual gynecological exam done by your OBGYN.
How is an STD test done if you’re male?
For males, STD tests involve taking a sample from the penis or urethra. Testicles may also be examined, depending on the type of test administered.
What should I do if I have an STD?
Here’s a step by step guide on what you should do if you get diagnosed with an STD:
- Get treatment: The earlier you start treatment, the better. STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia don’t always have symptoms, but they can cause major health issues down the road. Follow whatever treatment your doctor prescribes you to the letter.
- Tell your partner: Your partner may also be infected and has a right to know in order to get proper treatment. Your partner also has the potential to pass the STD back to you if you get treated and they don’t.
- Get retested: Certain STDs are more common to get again once you initially contract them. If you and your partner have both finished your medicine, you need to get retested in three months.
How often should you get tested for STDs?
This depends on your sexual activity. For most people, getting tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV is the standard.
If you have more anonymous partners, you need to get tested more frequently. Try and get tested every three to six months for STDs and STIs.
Should I get tested after every partner?
In short, yes. Every time you charge sexual partners, you should get tested for any STDs or STIs. It’s also a courtesy before you have sex with your new partner. You’re obligated to tell them if you have any kind of STD or STI, and it will help you engage in safe sex.
Can an STD or STI kill you?
Yes, certain STDs and STIs can kill you. If left untreated, the following STDs and STIs will eventually cause major complications and can be deadly:
- HIV: eventually causes AIDS; no cure
- Syphilis: internal organ failure, blindness, paralysis, death
- Hepatitis: liver failure, death
While some STDs and STIs aren’t deadly (like chlamydia or gonorrhea), they can still cause future complications. Things like fertility issues, pelvic inflammatory disease, and scarring of the urethra are all outcomes from non-deadly STDs, if left untreated.
Herpes, which is a relatively mild viral disease, can also increase your risk of contracting HIV in the future.
How to prevent STDs & STIs
There are plenty of ways to prevent the spread of STDs and STIs. In order to protect yourself, choose which option is best for you:
- Vaccination against hepatitis B and HPV
- Reduction in number of sexual partners
- Mutual monogamy
- Condom use
What happens if Chlamydia is left untreated?
If left untreated, chlamydia can have lasting effects. Your risk of getting STDs and STIs increases, primarily gonorrhea and HIV increases.
Chlamydia long-term effects
In the long-term, chlamydia can cause a host of other health issues:
- For men, untreated chlamydia can cause sterility
- For women, the chance of getting pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) increases; this also makes it more difficult to get pregnant or carry a baby full-term
What happens if Herpes goes untreated?
Generally, herpes does not have any serious long-term health problems like other STDs. Forgoing treatment may cause you to continue to have regular outbreaks. This can also cause the outbreaks to get worse over time. The primary concern is passing the virus along to your partner.
Are STDs more common at some US colleges?
STD and STI statistics are not released to the public due to HIPPA violations, but there is a list of the ten least sexually healthy colleges. The information is based on sexual assaults on campus and access to contraception. Neighboring areas STD reports are also a factor.
- Marquette University
- Vanderbilt University
- University of Louisiana at Monroe
- University of Tulsa
- Southern Methodist University
- Troy University
- University of Notre Dame
- Duke University
- Texas Christian University
- University of Pennsylvania
Prevention and early treatment are the keys to having a healthy sex life while in college. Be sure to take care of yourself when it comes to your sexual health. Don’t forget to talk to your partner before you decide to become intimate, too—then you can get down to business.