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Do I need a test?

It's up to you whether to have a test for sexually transmitted infections or not but it could save you a lot of worry. It could even save your life.

Most STIs can be cured with medication and those that can’t can be managed. But to manage or cure your STI you need to know you have it. The earlier it is treated the easier it will be to treat and the less long term damage it will cause.

Here are some good reasons you should get a test.

If you’ve never had a test

If you have ever had unprotected sex, or had something go wrong during sex like a burst condom, then you should get tested. You might not have any symptoms, but even if it was a while ago you should still get checked out.

Unfortunately, just because you don't have symptoms doesn't mean you're in the clear. Many people carry sexual infections without knowing it. They can still pass them on and can still get ill from them in the future.

Getting tested will give you the reassurance that you don’t have an undiscovered nasty.

If something happened recently

Did something go wrong during sex, like a burst condom or a spillage? Did you do something you regretted later?

Talk through what happened with your doctor or your local sexual health service.

Also, find out more about the risks of various activities with our risk-o-meter.

Unfortunately, just because you don't have symptoms doesn't mean you're in the clear. Many people carry sexual infections without knowing it. They can still pass them on and can still get ill from them in future.

You have symptoms

Sometimes it's obvious from symptoms that something's wrong. If you experience any of these symptoms or you think something isn’t right – get checked out.

Symptoms of STIs include:

  • Pain when urinating or ejaculating
  • Discharge from penis or vagina
  • Pain during sex
  • Blisters or sores on genitals
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Bleeding during or after sex

Read more about symptoms on our STI pages or try using our symptom-o-tron.

If you are experiencing any symptoms or you think you might have an STI speak to your doctor or make an appointment at your local sexual health service. It might be nothing but you won't know until you go.

If you have a new partner

It's easy to get carried away in the early days of a relationship, but it’s important to still stay safe.

You should only stop using condoms, when you're both sure that you are free of any sexually transmitted infections. Some sexual infections are harder to catch than others and many can go undetected for long periods, not all STIs have symptoms. The only way to be completely sure is for both of you to get tested.

In the meantime, you should continue to practise safer sex using condoms and other barriers or stick to safer sex alternatives until all of your test results are back and you are certain that you are in the clear. You can read our top tips about staying safe (emotionally and physically) with your shiny new partner here.

Remember, if you are in a heterosexual relationship and not using condoms with your partner, you need to consider other forms of contraception if you don’t want to get pregnant

Also, unless both you and your partner have been tested, are STI free and have been practising safer sex since being tested, you are at risk of STIs. If you have sex without a condom you put yourself and your partner at risk so make sure you use a condom every time.

If you want to start a family

If you want to start a family, you'll obviously need to stop using contraceptives, including condoms. This means that you could pass on a sexually transmitted infection to your partner.

Mothers are routinely tested for a range of infections but it's better for mother and baby if pregnancy starts without any on-going infections. Some infections may cause infertility and other complications.

Do the responsible thing and get tested before you start trying for a family.

You can read more about starting a family in our 'becoming a parent' section.

If a lover has contacted you with bad news

Has a former or current lover been in touch to tell you they've got a sexually transmitted infection?

If so, it's doesn't automatically mean you're infected, but you should get tested just in case. Just make an appointment with your doctor or your local sexual health service.

If you've had a note from a sexual health service

If an old partner has tested positive, they might have given your details to their sexual health service so they can get in touch to invite you for a test.

Worry not – getting one of these notes doesn't mean you're infected, but you should get tested just in case.

If you want to change contraceptive methods

Only condoms protect against sexually transmitted infections.

If you and your partner want to stop using condoms, you should both get tested first. Remember if you don’t want to get pregnant you need to think about other forms of contraception.

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For more information call  0800 22 44 88 or use our sexual health service finder to look for help in your area.