When should I test for STIs?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can pass from one person to another during sex. Many people with STIs have no symptoms. If you think you may have an STI then we recommend that you get tested. Most STIs don't show in a test straight away. So you need to wait a few weeks before a test will be accurate. This time is called the 'window period'. The window periods are different for different infections. If you're not sure about window periods, you should do a test now, and another test at a later date.

What is the window period for STIs?

  • Chlamydia: 2 weeks

  • Gonorrhoea: 2 weeks

  • HIV lab test: 7 weeks

  • Hepatitis B: 12 weeks

  • Hepatitis C: 12 weeks

  • Syphilis: 12 weeks

If you are using a rapid HIV self-test:

  • Insti HIV test: 12 weeks

What infections should I test for?

We think that everyone should get tested for HIV, Syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhoea when they change partners. If you are in a higher risk group you may also want to test for hepatitis B and hepatitis C. If you have symptoms then we recommend that you visit a clinic where you will be offered a genital examination and additional tests, if needed.

Higher risk groups for hepatitis B

  • men who have sex with men

  • people who inject drugs

  • people whose partners are high risk

  • sex workers

  • people who have a family member with hepatitis B

  • people born in areas where hepatitis B is common (Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, East and South East Asia, the Pacific Islands, Southern parts of East and Central Europe, The Indian subcontinent).

Higher risk group for hepatitis C

  • people who inject drugs

  • men who have sex with men

What sexually transmitted infections should I NOT test for?

Some sexually transmitted infections are diagnosed during a clinical examination and we do not recommend testing for these. These include genital herpes, genital warts and pubic lice. Some organisms are found in the genital area and often cause no problems and we do not recommend routine testing for them. These include mycoplasma genitalium, ureaplasma urealyticum and candida.

Written by Dr Paula Baraitser. Medical Director

Last updated at: 08 March 2022