How to test yourself for STIs (for free)
It’s probably not a subject you’d strike up with the ‘rents’, but getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases isn’t something you can shy away from.Last year more than half a million British people were diagnosed with STIs. It’s a scarily high number, but getting rid of sexually transmitted diseases is often easier than it sounds. All you need to do is get tested and that doesn’t cost a penny.
Of course, we all know the safest option is to always wrap it before you tap it (use a condom), but accidents happen and (without sounding like your sex ed. teacher) it’s always better to get checked out if you’re “sexually active”.
You’ll be pleased to know that getting tested isn’t even costly and, in most cases, can be done for free. Wahoo!
We’ve put together a full guide to all your awkward questions.
Why should you get tested?
To put it bluntly, if you’ve had unprotected sex of either the anal, vaginal or oral form and haven’t used protection or you’ve had genital contact or shared sex toys, you could have picked up an STI.
You might not even realise you’ve got an infection, but left untreated they can be painful and uncomfortable and permanently damage your health or fertility. Oh, you know, and you could pass them onto someone else.
Thankfully most STIs are easily treated but this all hinges on taking the test first. It might seem embarrassing but no one need know you’re taking it and it’s all part of looking after yourself. Even if you are using protection, it’s well worth doing regular tests anyway.
How do you get tested for STIs?
It’s easy to get confused as there are so many STIs out there, each with their own despicable characteristics.
Often the easiest way to get tested is to go for a full sexual health check-up every so often at your local sexual health clinic. This is free and there may even be one on your uni campus.
However, if you’re worried about something in particular, want to know what to expect or if you could self test then checkout our hotlist of STI culprits below, illustrated with the help of the STI microbes plush toy range. No, we’re not joking. These actually exist.
What is it? The most common STI in the book, Chlamydia can cause problems with fertility and pregnancy in later life and can make it burn when you pee.
What are the symptoms? Aha, you found the problem! Most people don’t know they have Chlamydia as it’s symptoms don’t appear in up to 70% of people, so best to get tested anyway!
You may, however, experience pain when urinating or an unusual discharge. Women might find they bleed between periods or experience pelvic pains, while men could experience pain in their testicles.
How do you get tested? A chlamydia test is pretty easy and can be done for free either at home or in a clinic. If you’re a dude it involves peeing in a pot and if you’re a dudette you need to get a vaginal swab. You can find a test at home kit for yourself here or look up where to get it done at a clinic.
How is it treated? A simple course of antibiotics will cure most cases of Chlamydia.
What is it? Another shady character, Gonorrhoea causes problems with fertility and can be very painful.
What are the symptoms? Again, a proportion of people won’t show any symptoms, but you might find a tenderness in you abdominal area for women or testicles for men. You could also experience burning pee or a strange discharge.
How do you get tested? If you’re a man you’ll need to wee in a pot and women will have a swab taken from their vagina. You can get it done for free at an NHS clinic.
How is it treated? A simple course of antibiotics will cure most cases Gonorrhoea.
What is it? Herpes is a virus which leaves you feeling pretty pokey and flu-like, as well as small fluid-filled blisters anywhere in the genital or anal area, on the buttocks or the tops of your thighs. These will burst within a day or two but leave red sores which can be painful.
What are the symptoms? The symptoms above should be easy enough to spot, but even if you don’t experience everything on the list, do go and get checked out. Please.
How do you get tested? If you’re being tested for herpes you’ll have to go and see a doctor so they can examine the blisters in person. They will also take a swab to confirm their views. Check out where the nearest clinic is on the NHS website.
You can pay for herpes tests online, but as they’re upwards of £70 in most cases, we say stick with the clinic.
How is it treated? Sadly you cannot cure herpes, but taking courses of antiviral tablets will help to control the symptoms.
What is it? While syphilis isn’t as common as other STIs if left untreated for long enough it can lead to serious damage to the heart, brain, eyes, bones and nervous system, even leading to death.
What are the symptoms? There’s no need to panic just yet though, syphilis is easily noticeable by sores which can appear anywhere on the body and can take up to six weeks to heal. They will usually appear in the genital area.
How do you get tested? This one really is a ‘go into the clinic’ jobby. You’ll be given an examination by a professional and you’ll need to take a blood test as well.
How is it treated? Thankfully, the treatment for syphilis involves a simple antibiotics injection.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. You’ve probably heard lots of information about HIV, genital warts or pubic lice and it’s just as important to get checked out for these too.
In case you’re wondering the microbe on the right is trichomonas vaginalis, which is quite common in women.
You can get free checkups and treatment for all STIs at your nearest sexual health clinic, which can easily be searched online (you should have got that by now).
If you’re a gay man and worried that you might have HIV, you can also order yourself a free home testing kit from the Terrance Higgins Trust.
Home testing kits
As we mentioned already, you can get free home testing kits for chlamydia nationwide if you’re under 25, and you can also snag a gonorrhoea test in certain parts of the country as well. Gay men can also get free HIV tests from the Terrance Higgins Trust.
If you’re looking to be tested for something else at home though, you can buy tests privately. These will cost you though, but they have come down a lot in price recently and you can get reliable ones for less than £20.
Basically, what we’re saying here is that STIs, for the most part, can be easily taken under control if you just make sure you get tested regularly. We don’t want to be a nag, but if you can get tested for free, why wouldn’t you?!