How often should you get tested for STIs? Well, like so much when it comes to sex, it depends.

Getting tested for STIs is part of what goes along with having sex with other people. Yes, it’s an extra appointment to add into your life, but it’s important to keep you and your partner(s) healthy. Since many STIs have no symptoms, getting tested is the only way to make sure you don’t have one of the over 30 infections that can be spread through sex. But how often should you get tested for STIs?

Well, like so much when it comes to sex, it depends.

First, a note that we’re using the term “STI” (sexually transmissible infection) instead of “STD” (sexually transmitted disease) — which is a bit outdated these days as a term — but they are basically interchangeable. So if you’re looking for how often to get tested for STDs, you’re in the right place.

When deciding how often to get tested for STIs, consider factors like how many sexual partners you have, how often you have new partners, how often you have sex, which type of sex you have (vaginal, oral, anal). and what type of protection you use and how often you use it. Factors like these help determine your level of risk for getting an STI.


The table below gives some general guidelines for different activities:

  1. Masturbation without any contact with another person’s body or any toys that have been in contact with another person’s body
    Risk Level - No risk
    Testing Recommendation - Depends on other activities
  2. Any kind of sex while using a barrier like a condom
    Risk Level - Low risk
    Testing Recommendation - Once a year
  3. Any kind of sex without using a barrier with a monogamous partner who is also getting regularly tested
    Risk Level - Low risk
    Testing Recommendation - Once a year
  4. Oral sex without a barrier with a partner for whom you don’t know the STI status
    Risk Level - Medium Risk
    Testing Recommendation - Every six months
  5. Masturbation with a hand or toy that is not covered by a barrier or has not been cleaned after touching someone else’s body or fluids
    Risk Level - Medium Risk
    Testing Recommendation - Every six months
  6. Vaginal and/or anal sex without a barrier with a partner for whom you don’t know the STI status
    Risk Level - High Risk
    Testing Recommendation - Every three months
  7. Being pregnant
    Risk Level - Does not increase or decrease your risk of getting STIs
    Testing Recommendation - Right when you find out you’re pregnant and then throughout pregnancy if you have other risk factors
  8. Being a man who has sex with men
    Risk Level - Depends entirely on your personal sexual activities, but statistically men who have sex with men are at high risk for STIs, including those living with HIV
    Testing Recommendation - Every three months
  9. Already having an STI
    Risk Level - Higher risk for getting HIV
    Testing Recommendation - Get treatment for the current STI
  10. Being HIV-positive
    Risk Level - Depends entirely on your personal sexual activities, but
    statistically having HIV leaves you at higher risk for getting an STI

    Testing Recommendation - At least once a year

Basically, the higher your risk, the more often you should get tested for STIs.

Lots of folks choose only to go when they have a new partner. The idea is that you can both get tested (even go together) when you start sleeping together and if you’re monogamous then you wouldn’t have to go often for testing because you know you’re not passing anything between you. Ultimately this strategy depends on whether or not one or both of you has other sexual partners. That said, it is recommended to continue getting tested just in case your partner isn’t being monogamous, even if that’s your agreement.

Now this is all just for your regular screening. If you have unprotected sex with someone who has an STI or if you develop a symptom like a burning sensation when you pee, don’t wait for your annual appointment!

If you are concerned you may have been exposed to HIV, you can get a treatment called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) which will dramatically reduce your chances of getting infected with HIV if you take it within 72 hours. Since it’s time-sensitive you should get to a clinic as soon as possible after exposure.

However, you may need to wait long enough after exposure for the new infection to show up on a test. So, say you had sex last night with someone you don’t know without a condom and you want to get to tested. Do not go right away to get tested the next day because if you did get an STI last night, it won’t show up on a test yet. Here’s how long you have to wait after the moment the STI entered your body to get an accurate test:

To be as accurate as possible, repeat any early testing you do three months later.

If you have symptoms of an STI, you do not need to wait to go to a clinic. ‍

In many cases a clinic can treat you for an assumed positive before your test results even come back to give you relief. Some will even treat you for a known exposure (meaning someone you had sex with without a barrier tested positive for an STI) even if you don’t have any symptoms.

Most STIs are easily treatable, but they can lead to serious health issues if left undiagnosed and untreated, so however often you go, make sure to keep up with it. Bottom line? Anyone who is sexually active should go at least once every year.