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Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Mar 25, 20227 min read

How are STD tests done?

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.


When it comes to maintaining your reproductive health, few things are more important than getting regular STD tests. Since many STDs are completely asymptomatic, anyone who is sexually active needs to get regular STD testing to prevent spreading these infections to other partners, and also to receive the necessary treatments. But how are STD tests done, exactly?

Keep reading to learn more about how STD tests are done, which samples are used, and where to get tested for STDs.

How are STD tests done?

The way in which STD tests are done will largely depend on the type of STD test that you’re getting, and the setting in which you’re getting your test done. As MedlinePlus points out, STD testing can help diagnose STDs early so you can get treatment as quickly as possible, thus avoiding the potential long-term complications of untreated STDs.

Types of STD test samples

Depending on the type of STD test that you’re getting, you may be required to provide different types of samples. Certain types of samples may provide more accurate results depending on the STDs you’re getting tested for. According to Planned Parenthood, samples taken for STD testing may include:

  • Urine sample: for this type of sample, you’ll simply need to urinate into a cup. In some cases, you’ll be asked to collect a first-void urine sample, which means that you need to catch the first 20 milliliters of urine that you pass when urinating. In other cases, you’ll be asked to discard those first milliliters of urine and take the sample from the rest of the urine that you pass. These specifications should be provided with your test. It’s also important to wash your genitals and hands before you collect the sample in order to avoid cross contamination.
  • Swab sample: different parts of your body can be swabbed to test for STDs. For some STDs, a vaginal or urethral swab is performed to collect a sample of discharge. Oral swabs can also be used to detect HIV, oral gonorrhea, and oral chlamydia, among others. Additionally, herpes can be diagnosed by swabbing an active herpes lesion. Swab samples can also be taken to diagnose anal STDs.
  • Blood sample: blood samples can be either venous blood samples from your arm or a finger stick sample, which only requires a quick prick on your finger. Venous blood samples must be collected by a healthcare professional, while finger prick samples can be taken by practically anyone, and they’re commonly used for at-home STD testing.

Where can you get an STD test?

Thanks to different testing options, getting tested for STDs regularly is easier than ever before. Traditional options include getting an STD test at your doctor’s office or at a walk-in clinic. However, there are also more convenient alternatives, such as at-home STD testing.

At-home STD tests

At-home STD test kits are a great option if you want to get tested from the privacy and comfort of your own home. Modern home STD tests cover a wide range of STDs, and you can get tested for multiple STDs at once.

Most providers of at-home STD tests sell their products online. Once your testing kit arrives, you will simply have to follow the instructions that are included in the kit in order to collect your sample. It’s important to follow these instructions closely, since collecting a good sample is vital to ensure reliable results. As the Mayo Clinic reminds us, you should consult your physician if your test results come back negative but you’re still showing signs of a possible STD.

Then, you’ll have to mail the samples back to the provider for analysis, and your results will be emailed securely back to you.

Keep in mind that if you’re planning on getting an at-home STD test, it’s very important to make sure that you’re getting your tests from a high-quality provider that follows all the necessary regulations and protocols to ensure accurate results. You can learn more about the best at-home STD test kits here.

Physicians office STD testing

When you’re getting an STD test at a doctor’s office or clinic, you may also receive a physical exam along with STD testing. A healthcare provider will collect your samples and deliver them to the lab, and you’ll receive your results once they’re ready — which can take anywhere from a few minutes to several days, depending on the type of test.

If your healthcare provider notices any symptoms of an STD during your physical exam, they may prescribe empirical treatment before your test results come back. According to Nemours Children’s Health, you’re unlikely to need a pelvic exam if you’re just getting routine STD testing and aren’t showing any signs of infection.

Clinic STD testing

Many walk-in clinics offer STD testing, especially clinics that specialize in sexual and reproductive health. Additionally, some emergency departments also offer these tests. Similarly to doctor’s office tests, a healthcare provider may choose to perform a physical exam and prescribe empirical treatment if needed. You can learn more about your STD testing options at STDWatch.com.


STD Tests - medlineplus.gov

How does STD testing work? - plannedparenthood.org

STD testing: What’s right for you? - mayoclinic.org

How Do Doctors Test for STDs? - kidshealth.org

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