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Illustrations by Maya Chastain

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

There are plenty of no- and lower-cost ways to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — no matter where you live. And that means there’s no financial reason 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 lower-cost testing locations in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

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

The short answer: Most STIs are sneaky lithalf a grandthat are completely asymptomatic.

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

  • increased susceptibility to 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 the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rates of infection (per 1,000 people) of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia is at an all-time high.

According to Alarms.org, 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

It depends! STI testing can cost anywhere from zero buckeroos to nearly half a grand.

So… what does it depend on, exactly?

  • where you live
  • where you go to get STI tested (i.e. doctor’s office, a health clinic, the health department, or at-home STI kits)
  • your income (some places use a sliding scale)
  • what tests you need
  • what insurance you have (if any)

Some insurance plans, including Medicare, and certain government programs may cover part or all of the cost. In some areas, it’s possible to find 100 percent free STI testing.

The good news: Whether you’re rolling in dough or broke AF, there are ways for you to access STI testing that you can afford. *Phew.*

If you need a free or lower-cost testing option, you may be able to find testing for about $40.00. As a general rule, for people who have a lower income or do not have insurance, your local Planned Parenthood, health clinic, and mobile testing clinics are going to be cheaper than the OB-GYN or urgent care.

At-home STI tests, while convenient and more accessible for people without access to transportation, are generally a little more costly. While you can usually find a kit that tests for one or two STIs for under $80.00, full panel kits will put you out at least $150.00.

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 at least 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.

The 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 partner(s) 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.

The time frames below demonstrate how long it takes for a given STI to incubate and ultimately become detectable on an STI test. These time frames are not the only window of time a given STI can be tested for.

What STIs you get tested for and where on your body a doctor or other healthcare professional (HCP) 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 an HCP about these things so they know what to test for.

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

There are 6 main types of STI tests

Blood test

A doctor or other HCP 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 HCPs won’t test for it otherwise.

Urine test

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

Genital swab

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

  • gonorrhea
  • chlamydia
  • trichomoniasis

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. A doctor or other HCP can swab these areas to test for:

  • gonorrhea
  • chlamydia
  • HSV
  • HPV

They can also test for HIV using a cheek swab.

Anal swab

A doctor or other HCP 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, a doctor or other HCP can swab the spot and test it for:

  • HSV
  • HPV
  • syphilis

How long it can take to get results

Generally, a clinician 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 lower-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 lower-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

Have you ever seen posters and signs for your local LGBTQIA+ 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 from 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 much lower 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 lower cost. STI testing and treatment is one of the (many!) services they typically offer.

Research from 2020 estimates there are 2,000 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

Since nearly half of new STI diagnoses occur in young people ages 15 to 24, most colleges and universities provide free or lower-cost STI testing to their students. (In case you were wondering: The most common STI on college campuses is chlamydia).

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

LGBTQIA+ centers

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

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

To find your local LGBTQIA+ 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 LGBTQIA+ friendly testing center through one of the following means:

  • Talk with pals in the LGBTQIA+ 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 more affordable care and LGBTQIA+ 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 the 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 individuals who are able to become pregnant 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 lower-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 regions of each state.

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

Northeast

Connecticut

Delaware

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

Vermont

Washington, D.C.

Southeast

Alabama

Arkansas

Florida

Georgia

Louisiana

Mississippi

North Carolina

South Carolina

Tennessee

Virginia

West Virginia

Midwest

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Michigan

Minnesota

Missouri

Nebraska

North Dakota

Ohio

South Dakota

Wisconsin

Southwest

Arizona

New Mexico

Oklahoma

Texas

West

Alaska

California

Colorado

Hawaii

Idaho

Montana

Nevada

Oregon

Utah

Washington

Wyoming

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 at least 2 weeks after the event, and again at about 3 months after the potential exposure.

If you tested positive for one (or more) STIs

Generally speaking, your game plan may look like:

  • starting treatment
  • pausing sexual activity until treatment is complete
  • informing any recent and current sexual partners so they can get tested and treated
  • resuming safer sex practices when you get the green light for sexual activity from a doctor or other HCP
  • getting retested if a doctor or other HCP recommends it

If you tested positive for gonorrhea, chlamydia, or trichomoniasis

Usually, a doctor or other HCP 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 HCP 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.

Within 6 months of treatment, the virus will become undetectable in most people.

If you have a partner who’s HIV-negative, they may choose to take preexposure 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 currently doesn’t have a 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 affect 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 doctor or other HCP is confidential

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

The CDC requires that labs and HCPs 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(s)

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 transmission.

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! — a doctor or other HCP can notify them anonymously.

Minors are able to consent to STI testing in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

And no state requires that the provider notify guardians about this service (so long as the minor is over the age of 12).

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

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

For more general information about STIs, check out:

And for helpful resources about testing positive, check out:


Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.