How Soon Can You Get Tested for STDs? – Incubation Period & Testing Time Frames


How soon should I test for STDs after exposure?

When to get tested for an STD is an important question. After an individual is exposed to an STD and becomes infected, there is a period of time before a test will show a positive result. This is called the window period. For some STDs, the window period for testing can be as short as a week or two, and for other STDs, as long as a few months.

The second column has the earliest time that tests offered by myLAB Box could be positive after a potential exposure. Some of the times listed are estimates due to limited data; in other cases the window period is simply unknown.

 

 When to take your first test after exposureHow long can it take to have a positive test
Chlamydia7 days7 days or longer
Gonorrhea7 days7 days or longer
Genital Herpes (HSV-2)2 weeks*2-16 weeks (2 weeks to 4 months)
Most test positive by 8 weeks but it can take as long as 4 months to become positive
Syphilis2 weeks2 weeks to 3 months. Average 3 weeks to become positive
HIV (4th generation, antibody and antigen)19-21 days19 days to 6-7 weeks
Hepatitis C3 weeks3 weeks to 6 months. Most test positive by 6-9 weeks
HPV (high risk types)Testing done for women 30 years of age or older, usually test 2-3 years after last negative testUnknown window period
Trich7 days or when vaginal or urethral symptoms are present1 – 4 weeks
BV (Bacterial Vaginosis)Vaginal symptoms are presentUnknown window period
Yeast (Candida Vaginitis)Vaginal symptoms are presentUnknown window period
M. genitaliumVaginal symptoms are presentUnknown window period

 

*Negative test results need to be repeated if initial testing done at less than 16 weeks after exposure

How soon should I retest after treatment?

Follow-up testing can be very helpful and give you peace of mind. In most cases, it is important to retest after treatment to be sure you are no longer infected. An exception is HSV-2 (genital herpes) which is a lifetime infection. Retesting after testing positive for HSV-2 is not needed. Individuals testing positive for HIV and HPV often require additional testing during or following treatment. This type of testing is best done by the clinical provider treating you.

There is disagreement among major medical and public health organizations about retesting time schedules. In many cases, there is limited data or even no data to make an evidence-based recommendation. Given the current state of knowledge, our recommendations for retesting emphasize staying healthy and disease free. Retesting is especially important when sex partners do not receive treatment, individuals have sex with new infected partners, or sex occurs without using condoms.

 

 Retesting after treatmentRetesting after testing negative*
Chlamydia3 weeks after end of treatmentEvery 3 months
Gonorrhea3 weeks after end of treatmentEvery 3 months
Genital Herpes (HSV-2)No retesting neededEvery 6-12 months or if symptoms are present
Syphilis6 weeks-6 months**Every 3-6 months
HIV (4th generation, antibody and antigen)Additional testing done by clinical providerEvery 3-6 months
Hepatitis CAdditional testing done by clinical providerEvery 6-12 months
HPV (high risk types)Additional testing done by clinical providerEvery 2-3 years
Trich3 weeks after end of treatmentVaginal or urethral symptoms are present, but Trich can be present without symptoms
BV (Bacterial Vaginosis)Retest is symptoms persistVaginal symptoms are present
Yeast (Candida Vaginitis)Retest is symptoms persistVaginal symptoms are present
M. genitalium1 month after end of treatmentUnknown

* Retesting is especially important if you have multiple sex partners and had unprotected sex.
** Requires serologic (i.e. titer) testing. Please see your clinical provider for type and frequency of testing for syphilis after treatment.


What Are the First Signs of An STD?

It’s important to know how to spot the signs of an STD so you can seek medical attention as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many STDs are asymptomatic, which means they do not have noticeable signs or symptoms. These STDs are impossible to spot on your own, which is why STD testing is so important.

There are noticeable signs and symptoms for certain STDs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and herpes. Some of the first signs of these STDs include:

  • Painful urination
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Itching, redness, or irritation on or inside the vagina or penis
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Flu-like symptoms

If you spot any of these early signs of STDs, get tested right away.

Can STD Symptoms Appear the Next Day?

It is possible to experience STD symptoms the day after being exposed, but it is rare. The time that it takes symptoms to appear will depend on the type of STD. Symptoms usually appear within these timeframes:

  • Chlamydia: 1-3 weeks
  • Gonorrhea: 2-14 days
  • Trichomoniasis: 4 weeks
  • Syphilis: 2-3 weeks
  • Genital Herpes: 2-14 days
  • HIV: 2-6 weeks

Every case is unique, so your symptoms may appear outside of these timeframes.

Do STDs Show Up In Routine Blood Tests?

Routine blood tests include complete blood counts (CBC), complete metabolic panels (CMP), lipid panels, thyroid panels, and enzyme markers. These tests can identify a wide range of health conditions, but they are not designed to test for STDs.

Routine blood tests may reveal signs of an STD, such as an elevated white blood cell count. But, an elevated white blood cell count can be caused by countless other conditions, so this is not a reliable way to test for STDs.

The best—and only—way to test for STDs is with an STD test.

 

Reviewed by Luis Ferdinand M. Papa, MD, MHA