How soon should I test for STDs after potential 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 exposure How long can it take to have a positive test
Chlamydia 7 days 7 days or longer
Gonorrhea 7 days 7 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
Syphilis 2 weeks 2 weeks to 3 months. Average 3 weeks to become positive
HIV (4th generation, antibody and antigen) 19-21 days 19 days to 6-7 weeks
Hepatitis C 3 weeks 3 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 test Unknown window period
Trich 7 days or when vaginal or urethral symptoms are present 1 – 4 weeks
BV (Bacterial Vaginosis) Vaginal symptoms are present Unknown window period
Yeast (Candida Vaginitis) Vaginal symptoms are present Unknown window period
M. genitalium Vaginal symptoms are present Unknown 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?
How soon should I retest after testing negative?

Follow-up testing can be very helpful and give you piece 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 treatment Retesting after testing negative*
Chlamydia 3 weeks after end of treatment Every 3 months
Gonorrhea 3 weeks after end of treatment Every 3 months
Genital Herpes (HSV-2) No retesting needed Every 6-12 months or if symptoms are present
Syphilis 6 weeks-6 months** Every 3-6 months
HIV (4th generation, antibody and antigen) Additional testing done by clinical provider Every 3-6 months
Hepatitis C Additional testing done by clinical provider Every 6-12 months
HPV (high risk types) Additional testing done by clinical provider Every 2-3 years
Trich 3 weeks after end of treatment Vaginal or urethral symptoms are present, but Trich can be present without symptoms
BV (Bacterial Vaginosis) Retest is symptoms persist Vaginal symptoms are present
Yeast (Candida Vaginitis) Retest is symptoms persist Vaginal symptoms are present
M. genitalium 1 month after end of treatment Unknown

* 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.