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Testing for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

This webpage is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

exually transmitted infections (STIs) are diseases that affect your sexual and reproductive organs. The most common STIs are chlamydia, genital herpes and genital warts (HPV)

Anyone who's sexually active can get or spread an STI. Be sure to know the symptoms of an STI and get tested regularly if you think you are at risk of having an STI.

If You Think You Have an STI

Get it checked out as soon as possible!

STIs are serious, can be painful and may have long term effects on your health and your ability to have children in the future.

If you're experiencing any of the symptoms below, visit your family doctor or any one of our healthy sexuality clinics to find out what you might have and how to have it treated.

It's also important to avoid having sex (oral, anal or vaginal) until you've seen a doctor to find out if you do have an STI.

STI Symptoms: Men and Women

You can get many types of infections by having sex (oral, anal or vaginal). Since some STIs might not cause symptoms right away or at all, you or your partner(s) might be infected and not even know it. If you're sexually active or starting a new relationship, regular STI testing is important.

For men, symptoms of an STI can include:

  • A discoloured or foul-smelling discharge from the penis.
  • A burning feeling when urinating.
  • Pain during sex or masturbation.
  • Excessive itching in the penis or scrotum.
  • Unusual bumps or a rash on the penis or scrotum.
  • Bleeding from the penis.

For women, symptoms of an STI can include:

  • An unusual discharge (a different colour, smell, or amount) from the vagina.
  • A burning feeling when urinating.
  • Pain during sex or masturbation.
  • Excessive itching in the vagina or labia.
  • Unusual bumps or a rash on your genitals.
  • Heavier-than-usual bleeding from your vagina (different than your normal period.)

When You Should Get Tested

If you're experiencing the symptoms of an STI, make an appointment to be tested as soon as possible.

If you're sexually active it's a good idea to get tested every year for STI's, even if you feel fine. Some STI's are asymptomatic (have no symptoms) so you might not even know you have one unless you get tested.

If you're at the start of a new relationship and considering having oral sex or intercourse with your new partner, make an appointment to get tested. While you're waiting for your test results, practice safer sex by using a condom, a dental dam or consider outercourse or abstinence.

The types of tests you'll need will depend on your symptoms and concerns.

The doctor or nurse will explain which test(s) are going to be done and what will take place during the test(s). Don't be afraid to ask questions or speak up if you have any concerns about the test(s).

STI Testing for Men

Preparing for Your Test(s):

Don't urinate for 2 hours before your check-up. When you see the doctor or nurse, they will ask you to undress partially or completely.

During Your Test(s)

Depending on your symptoms, the doctor or nurse may:

  • Check your genitals visually.
  • Touch your penis and testicles to check for discharge, pain or sores.
  • Take a swab from your urethra (the opening of the penis).
  • Take a swab from a lesion or sore.
  • Ask for a urine sample.
  • Take a blood test.

HIV Testing Isn't Automatic!

HIV testing shouldn't take place without your consent!

HIV testing involves pre-test counselling and then a blood test. Your doctor won't automatically test for HIV when you get a routine blood test.

STI Testing for Women

The types of tests you'll need will depend on your symptoms and concerns.

The doctor or nurse will explain which test(s) are going to be done and what will take place during the test(s). Don't be afraid to ask questions or speak up if you have any concerns about the test(s).

Preparing for Your Test(s):

When you see the doctor or nurse, they will ask you to undress partially or completely.

During Your Test(s)

Depending on your symptoms, the doctor or nurse may:

  • Check your genitals visually.
  • Insert a speculum inside your vagina so he or she can see your vaginal walls and cervix clearly.
  • Take a swab from your vagina and/or cervix.
  • Take samples from your cervix using a tiny brush and spatula (if you're getting a pap test.)
  • Place his or her gloved fingers into your vagina while pressing on your abdomen with the other hand. This is to feel the ovaries and uterus.
  • Take a swab from a lesion or sore.
  • Ask for a urine sample.
  • Take a blood test.

HIV Testing Isn't Automatic!

HIV testing shouldn't take place without your consent!

HIV testing involves pre-test counselling and then a blood test. Your doctor won't automatically test for HIV when you get a routine blood test.

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