Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/23/2021
If you live a sexually active life — whether with one or multiple sexual partners — getting routine testing for sexually transmitted diseases is one thing you definitely want to prioritize.
For context, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases occur every year in the United States alone.
With such prevalence, there’s a chance many people may not always be truthful or knowledgeable about the status of their sexual health, making it important for you to take charge of yours.
To avoid STD-related challenges to your reproductive health like infertility, ectopic pregnancies, infections from birth, as well as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), getting tested at least once a year can help to protect your physical and sexual health.
An important question to ask however, is: “how much will an STD test cost me?”
Sexually transmitted diseases are infections contracted through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. Many of these diseases are more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men.
STDs are usually transmitted from an infected to an uninfected person by direct skin contact. Having an STD can result in several long-term reproductive health complications (like some of the ones stated above), as well as increasing your risk for certain types of cancer.
And that’s not even mentioning the mental and emotional trauma having one inflicts on our psyche.
Sexually active women who do not use appropriate care during sexual contact may be at risk of the following diseases:
Pelvic inflammatory disease
STDs during pregnancy
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
If you suspect that you or a sexual partner has a sexually transmitted disease, the following symptoms may indicate the presence of one of such conditions:
Sores around the genital area, commonly seen with herpes.
Painful urination which may sometimes be frequent
Blisters around the mouth, a known sign of oral herpes
Unusual discharge around the vagina, as seen in thin, white or gray discharge observed in bacterial vaginosis.
A foul odor around the vagina
Rectal itching or burning, noticeable in anal herpes.
Abdominal pain, which may be linked to a condition like gonorrhea
Also important to note is the fact that sometimes, STDs may not present any symptoms, making tests to detect their presence in the body extremely important.
Testing for sexually transmitted infections is an important health requirement for any sexually active person. This includes:
Women younger than 25 years old, especially for conditions like gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Women above 25 with multiple sex partners, or a sexual companion who is actively dealing with an STD should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia annually.
Early in pregnancy, pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B and C.
Women who have since changed partners since their last test
Women that routinely engage in unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
There are many, many types of STDs. And while it is understandable to observe caution to make sure you’re not living with one, it may not always be practical, or possible to test for every known STD during visits with a healthcare provider.
However, it’s possible to screen for those most pertinent to you. To achieve this, you and your healthcare professional could discuss the following:
Any symptoms that may have prompted your visit
Your sexual health history, and if you or one of your sexual partners has ever dealt with an STD
The forms of intercourse you engage in, whether oral, vaginal or anal
How often you use contraceptives such as condoms during sex
Whether you engage in practices that can increase your chances of contracting a disease (such as sharing needles)
Depending on the recommendations of a healthcare provider, you may test for one or more STDs.
Each STD needs to have a separate screening, and is not expected to take very long. During tests, you can expect the following:
Cheek swabs carried out with a soft swab placed inside your mouth. This is usually to test for HIV.
Blood tests extracted from your arm or a finger prick.
Physical inspections of the genital area to look out for sores, warts, irritation, rashes or other abnormalities in the region.
Swabs taken from the vagina, anus, cervix or throat.
When testing for HIV, results may come out within the hour, sometimes as quickly as 20 minutes. However, other tests may require more time over a number of days or weeks for a verdict.
Healthcare professionals will also likely walk you through your treatment options and answer any additional questions you have regarding next steps.
If you’d like to get tested for an STD, you may visit anywhere from your primary healthcare provider’s office, to a local health department or a Planned Parenthood center.
In a location like Planned Parenthood, where such testing services are subsidized, a single STD test can cost around $40-$50, with an average visit likely to cost between $100-$110, give or take.
Private facilities are likely to cost a little more. This, of course, depends on a multitude of factors, including which facility you visit, where that facility is located, what kind of programming they run, etc.
If you are covered by health insurance, you'll be pleased to know that the Affordable Care Act mandates all health insurance plans provide preventative health benefits that permit testing for certain STDs (such as gonorrhea). This also covers conditions such as chlamydia and syphilis..
As preventative measures, such tests are sometimes required by law to be covered at 100 percent, meaning you have nothing or very little to contribute to payments.
And of course, if the results of your test/s are worst-case scenario, you’ll need to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider.
In addition to organizations like Planned Parenthood and factors like insurance covers, the cost of STD testing can be brought down by visiting local health clinics.
These clinics do not only offer reduced charges for testing, but are also preferred for the ease they provide in booking appointments and the expert care provided. Many of them will also walk you through treatment options, if need be.
Similar low-cost services are provided by LGBTQ+ centers, as well as college and university health centers.
STDs can very negatively affect the quality of your life and reproductive health. To prevent and manage their effects, getting routine STDS tests can be an important first step to getting your wellbeing in check.
STD tests can cost anywhere from nothing, to $40 in select organizations, to as much as $200 when screening for certain diseases, depending on the kind of testing you’re seeking, your healthcare insurance provider, your location, etc.
Regardless, it’s important to understand that proper and consistent routine testing is an important part of your health and wellness — so make sure you’re doing what you have to.