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Illustrations by Maya Chastain

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Public service announcement: You don’t need to choose between your sexual health and paying rent, your gym membership, or, heck, even your morning coffee.

There are plenty of no- and low-cost ways to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — no matter where you live. And that means there’s no excuse not to get tested. And regularly!

Below, we break down how often you should get tested and what testing actually entails, plus round up some of the best free and low-cost testing locations in all 50 states.

Get tested now. Thank us for making it so easy later.

The short answer: Most STIs are sneaky little suckers that are completely asymptomatic.

And whether you have obvious symptoms or not, STIs that are left untreated can lead to:

  • increased susceptibility of other STIs
  • pain
  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • kidney damage
  • infertility
  • cancer
  • blindness

Although all STIs can be cured or treated with meds, you can’t get those meds if you don’t know you need them. Logic!

STI rates continue to climb

According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the combined number of cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia reached an all-time high in 2018.

According to, which pulled data from the CDC and ranked it all for us, states with the highest number of reported STI cases include:

  • Alaska
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • South Carolina
  • New Mexico

The CDC recommends that all sexually active women under the age of 25, women over the age of 25 with new or multiple sex partners, and sexually active gay and bisexual men be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea once a year.

But health expert Sherry A. Ross, MD, author of “She-ology” and “She-ology, the She-quel,” says these guidelines are considered antiquated by most healthcare professionals.

“Folks of all genders and sexual orientations should be tested once a year, after unprotected sex, or in between new partners — whichever comes first,” she says.

It’s a good idea to get tested anytime you have sex without a barrier — or put the barrier in place after your genitals have already grazed, smashed, or pressed together! — with someone who has an STI or whose STI status you don’t know.

Same goes if the condom or dental dam split or slipped off during anal, oral, or vaginal sex, or you realized after you boned that the barrier had a hole.

You and your boo should each get tested before you go without a barrier or intentionally swap bodily juices (aka fluid bond).

“You should also get tested if you suspect that your partner has been cheating on you,” adds Kecia Gaither, MD, double board certified in OB-GYN and maternal fetal medicine, and director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln.

What STIs you get tested for and where on your bod your healthcare provider tests depends on things like:

  • how you’re getting down and dirty
  • what (if any) symptoms you (or your partner/s) have
  • whether you have a previous or current partner who’s tested positive for an STI
  • what your safer sex practices include
  • if you or your partner(s) have ever used injectable substances

Make sure you’re honest with your healthcare provider about these things so they know what to test for.

Remember: Your doctor is here to help you live your healthiest life, not judge you. (If they do, drop ’em and get a new one.)

There are 6 main types of STI tests

Blood test

Your doctor can test for the following by taking a blood sample from your finger or arm:

You’ll have to sign a consent form to get tested for HIV. And to get tested for herpes you’ll have to explicitly ask. Most doctors won’t test for it otherwise.

Urine test

After you pee in a cup, your urine can be tested for:

Genital swab

Your doctor can swab the penis, vulva, urethra, cervix, and vagina for discharge or a cell sampling to test for:

If you have a vagina, this process usually involves putting a speculum inside your vagina (with the help of lube!) and inserting a long Q-tip inside. It takes about 60 seconds, tops.

Oral swab

It’s possible to have an STI infection of the throat, mouth, lips, and tongue. Your doctor can swab these areas to test for:

Your doctor can also test for HIV using a cheek swab.

Anal swab

Your doctor can test for the following by inserting a long Q-tip into your anus to collect a sample of cells:

  • anal chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • HPV

Site-specific swab

If you have a sore, blister, bump, or lesion anywhere on your body, your doctor can swab the spot and test it for:

How long it takes to get results

Generally, your doctor will wait until they have the results from all the STI tests performed to call you.

If you still haven’t heard back after a week, don’t assume the test(s) was negative. Give ’em a ring to learn your results.

Congrats! You’ve made the decision to take control of your health and learn your current STI status. But where the heck should you go to get tested if you’re on a budget or don’t have health insurance?

Here’s where to go and what to know.

Local health departments

Thanks to federal and state funding, most city and county health departments are able to offer free or low-cost STI testing.

Almost all local health departments will test for:

  • gonorrhea
  • chlamydia
  • syphilis
  • HIV

Your local health department may also test for other STIs, such as:

  • herpes
  • trichomoniasis
  • hepatitis B and C

Want to know which STIs they’ll test for before you go? Find your local health department by going to this CDC guide. Then ring them up and ask!

Planned Parenthood locations

“You’ll get a great quality of care at Planned Parenthood,” Ross says.

Best part? Planned Parenthood clinics receive some government funds and base their fees on a sliding scale, meaning what you pay depends on your personal income, demographic factors, and assistance eligibility.

So, if you have a low-income household, it’s very possible that you won’t have to pay anything.

Find the Planned Parenthood closest to you by entering your ZIP code, city, or state in the search bar at this link.

Nonprofit organizations

Ever see posters and signs for your local LGBTQ+ or religious orgs and programming around town? Well guess what — many of these nonprofit orgs run local health clinics that provide STI testing.

What STI tests are available varies city to city and clinic to clinic, but most will test (at the very least) for:

  • gonorrhea
  • chlamydia
  • HIV

Oh, and because these clinics usually receive money from federal grants, donations, and fundraisers, testing is completely free, or available at a very low cost.

To find one near you, try Googling “sexual health clinic near me” or “[insert your city here] STI testing clinic.”

Mobile clinics

Mobile clinics are souped-up vans that travel through rural and urban areas to offer high-quality healthcare at a low cost. STI testing and treatment is one of the (many!) services they typically offer.

Research estimates there’s 1,500 mobile clinics traveling throughout the United States at any given time. To find one near you, search Mobile Health Map.

College and university health centers

Because half of all new STI diagnoses occur in college-aged folks (18 to 24), most colleges and universities offer free or super low-cost STI testing to their students.

Call your school’s health center to learn what STIs they’re able to test for.

LGBTQ+ centers

Most medium and large cities have local LGBTQ+ centers that either:

  • offer STI testing for folks in the LGBTQ+ community
  • have a directory of local LGBTQ+ friendly providers who offer STI testing

To find your local LGBTQ+ center, check out this CenterLink LGBT Community Center Member Directory. Enter your location, find the community center nearest you, and call them up for info about STI testing.

Not in a big city? Gaither recommends finding a LGBTQ+ friendly testing center through one of the following means:

  • Talk to pals in the LGBTQ+ community!
  • Google “STI clinic near me + LGBTQIA” (or a similar search term).
  • Search the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) provider directory.
  • Go to the nearest Planned Parenthood, which offers affordable care and LGBTQ+ services in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Urgent care clinic

This is a great option for folks who want to get tested NOW. STI testing may not be your local walk-in clinic’s main jam, but they almost always offer it.

Home testing kits

There are a number of direct-to-consumer companies — such as LetsGetChecked, STD Check, and Nurx — that offer STI testing that you can do from the privacy of your own home.

Although these kits are typically pricier than the other testing options on the list, they’re a great option for folks who don’t have access to (or won’t go to, for whatever reason) an IRL provider.

Learn more about the different types of kits available, including how much they cost, how the sample is collected, and how treatment is administered.

Avoid crisis pregnancy centers

When seeking out a place to get tested, you’ll want to avoid crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). These nonprofit orgs ignore prevailing medical standards of sexual and reproductive healthcare and aim to keep vulva owners from accessing abortion.

While some CPCs do test for STIs, very, very few actually offer treatment for a positive diagnosis.

Make sure the clinic you’re en route to get tested at isn’t a CPC by entering the location into the Crisis Pregnancy Center Map.

There are tons of online STI clinic finders you can use to find a low-cost or free testing location right near you.

Here are some of the most common:

Or scroll down for our roundup, where we’ve identified an STI testing location at the top, middle, and bottom region of each state.

Head to any of the below spots and get tested for little or no dough.







New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York


Rhode Island


Washington, D.C.








North Carolina

South Carolina



West Virginia











North Dakota


South Dakota




New Mexico















You’ll get a separate result for every STI that you get tested for.

That means you might get negative results across the board. Or you might test positive for one (or more!) STIs.

Yep, it’s possible to have more than one STI (this is known as coinfection).

“Some STIs can make you more susceptible to other STIs,” Ross says.

Untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia, for example, can both increase the likelihood of contracting HIV if you have sex with someone who’s HIV-positive without a condom or other barrier method.

If you tested negative for all STIs

No treatment is needed. Continue practicing safer sex!

If, however, you had sex without a barrier, experts recommend getting tested 2 weeks after the event, and again at 3 months after the potential exposure.

If you tested positive for one (or more) STIs

Generally speaking, your game plan will include:

  1. Get treated.
  2. Pause sexual activity until treatment is complete.
  3. Inform any recent and current sexual partners so they can get tested and treated.
  4. Resume having safer sex when you get the green light from your doctor.
  5. Get retested if your healthcare provider recommends it.

If you tested positive for gonorrhea, chlamydia, or trichomoniasis

Usually your healthcare provider will prescribe a single dose of an antibiotic. The infection should clear up within a week.

You may be asked to return a few weeks after diagnosis for a “test of cure” to ensure that the antibiotic fully cleared the infection.

If you tested positive for HIV

You’ll take a second test to confirm those results.

If your second test is HIV-positive, your healthcare provider will prescribe antiretroviral therapy (ART) to help manage the condition.

This combination of meds helps ensure that the infection doesn’t develop into AIDS. It also reduces the risk of transmitting the infection to current or future sexual partners.

If you have a partner who’s HIV-negative, they may choose to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to help minimize the risk of contraction.

If you tested positive for HPV

There are more than 100 different kinds of HPV. Although there’s no current cure for HPV, many strains don’t cause complications.

Some cause genital warts, which can be removed.

Some are linked to an increased risk of cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, or throat. Next steps may include:

  • monitoring the area
  • further testing
  • removing any abnormal or precancerous cells

If you tested positive for HSV

A herpes test will come back positive if you’ve ever had herpes — this includes cold sores! — in your lifetime, even if you’ve never had or aren’t currently experiencing symptoms.

Herpes doesn’t have a current cure, but you can manage the condition. Meds like valacyclovir can help decrease the likelihood of a herpes outbreak and help prevent transmission to an HSV-negative partner.

If you tested positive for hepatitis B or C

When diagnosed early, an antiviral medication can clear hepatitis B and C.

But because both diseases can spread to the liver, a follow-up appointment with a gastroenterologist may be necessary.

If you tested positive for syphilis

When diagnosed early, an antibiotic can clear syphilis.

Fear that someone — be it a parent, a partner, or someone else — might find out about the test or its results keeps many folks from accessing sexual healthcare.

The below may help ease some of those worries.

All info (including test results) shared with a healthcare provider is confidential

Any personal information that your doc asks is used to give you the best possible care and to contact you about your results.

The CDC requires that labs and physicians notify them anytime they’ve received a positive STI result for:

But your name and other identifying info aren’t attached to this information.

You have options for how you tell your partner

If you test positive for an STI, telling any past or current partners is M-U-S-T so they can get treated and prevent potential spread.

If you suspect that disclosing a positive result to your partner(s) will compromise your safety — or you just don’t want to do it yourself! — your healthcare provider can notify them anonymously.

Minors are able to consent to STI testing in all 50 states

And no state requires that the provider notify guardians about this service.

However, 18 states — which you can find listed here — allow doctors to inform guardians that a minor sought STI services. Find out what the laws in your state are, and talk with your provider about how your information might be shared.

If you have questions like “Do I have [X]” or “What to do if [X],” the healthcare provider doing the testing is your best bet.

For more general information about STIs, check out:

You can also check out this roundup of best STI blogs.

And for helpful resources about testing positive, check out:

Gabrielle Kassel is a New York–based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.