If you find yourself having been exposed to an STD or HIV, you may be asking yourself, “When should I take a test?” This is an important question to ask as some STDs will not show up on a test right away. When someone is exposed to an STD, there is generally a period of time before the infection will appear on an STD test, known as an incubation period. This means testing at the right time is crucial. You do not want to wait too long to test, however, as the infection can cause long term health issues without proper treatment.

Let’s take a look at some of the recommended time frames for STD and HIV testing.

The CDC recommends that all adults and adolescents between the ages of 13 and 64 should be tested at least once in their lifetime for HIV. It also recommends that anyone who engages in unsafe sexual activity or shares intravenous drug needles should test at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men are urged to test more frequently.

According to the CDC, all sexually active women under the age of 25, or older women with multiple sex partners, are recommended to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea annually. All sexually active gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men should test for syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea every 3-6 months.

If you think that you may have been exposed to an STD or HIV, our doctors recommend waiting at least two weeks after the potential exposure before taking a test. They also recommend waiting until one week after finishing any treatment of antibiotics to test because antibiotics can disrupt any tests for bacterial infection such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis. Our doctors further recommend doing a follow-up test six weeks later if you are concerned about a recent exposure to STDs or HIV.

If you think you may be pregnant, the CDC recommends screening for syphilis, HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and hepatitis B.. This will help to protect both you and your unborn child from spreading the infection. Some STDs can cause complications during pregnancy and precautions need to be taken, so it is best to know as early as possible if you have an infection.

Many STDs will show little or no symptoms in an infected person, but can still cause harm to your long term health. It is important to keep in mind that during the incubation period of an STD, even without symptoms present, a person can still transmit the infection to someone else. The best way to know the current status of your sexual health is to have an STD test performed. Please speak with a doctor if you have additional questions or concerns about your sexual health.

1 CDC – STD/HIV Screening Recommendations
2 CDC – STI Screening and Treatment Guidelines