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Why STI Testing Is Super Important

By , 16, Staff Writer Originally Published: April 10, 2024 Revised: April 10, 2024

In my experience, hearing about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also commonly referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), meant either warnings about health problems associated with them or graphic pictures. School and media, like TV and movies, seemed to focus on STIs being “bad” without informing us what to do if we have or think we might have one. I certainly don’t remember ever being encouraged to get tested for them.

This information gap was why I was scared of STIs. Scared of those pictures the school showed, but more importantly, scared of feeling shame.

If you have any of these fears, you’re not alone. I decided to get tested, to see what the process is really like, and so I could encourage other teens to do the same. I’ve learned STIs don’t have to be scary, and getting tested is easier and more common than you might think!

What Ifs and Worries

Teens often have concerns about STIs and STI testing. No wonder, when we often don’t get helpful information about them! “Am I going to be poked and prodded?” I thought when I decided to get tested. I thought it would hurt, followed by weeks of tense waiting by the phone for results.

Most STIs are curable and even those that aren’t are treatable.

I was also scared that if I had an STI, it would be a huge health concern and stick with me for years. I soon learned that even chronic STIs, like HIV, can typically be managed and even become non-transferrable to others with proper treatment.

Teens don’t have to define sex by the potential risks involved, but we should know that sex can be practiced in safer ways. Lots of new STI cases are popping up among 15 to 24 year olds. Research shows that they’re likely increasing because of a lack of comprehensive sex education providing information about prevention, a lack of access to care during the pandemic and decreased condom use.

Testing helps to uncover a potential STI—they don’t always cause symptoms, and when they do, symptoms can take a long time to show—and get you on track with treatment as needed. Most STIs are curable and even those that aren’t are treatable.

Types of Tests

As teens, we often think of medical procedures as scary, but many are routine safety checks. Some STI¬¬ tests are as simple as a urine test! Imagine if all future health problems could be solved just by peeing in a cup! Urine tests can check for gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, which are among the most common STIs.

There are also blood tests, sometimes done via a finger prick, which can screen for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B. You could also get a swab test, which can check for chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes, in which the provider will carefully take a sample from the genital area with a cotton swab. Providers won’t typically start checking for HPV until after age 30. (But don’t forget that the HPV vaccine is really effective at preventing harmful forms of HPV.)

STIs can be transmitted via different forms of sexual behavior, not just anal or vaginal. Oral sex and skin-to-skin contact can also spread some STIs. When you get tested, be honest about the types of sex (oral, anal, vaginal) you’ve had and any symptoms, so the provider can be sure to choose the right tests.

Bottom line: if you’re sexually active, getting tested is a responsible thing to do, both for yourself and others. Testing should be more frequent if you have multiple sexual partners, but you should always ask your provider what they recommend.

The Preparation

You can find a testing center near you at Some information will vary by state and some places may require an appointment, which is why it’s good to call ahead first.

For example, I called a local health clinic to find out how minors can get tested, the best times for walk-in testing and if I needed to bring any identification. I learned that I did not need a guardian and it would be a super-quick process.

Although I did my research, I still had nerves. Whenever we try something new, there can be reservations, but I knew this was important to do.

The Waiting Room

It turned out that sitting in the waiting room was the longest part of my process! Since I did walk-in testing, there was a wait, but with an appointment you should be seen more quickly. I brought a book and also went on my phone, which helped me feel less nervous.

Looking around the waiting room, I saw different kinds of people, gender-wise and age-wise. I did not, however, see many teens. But teens may not even be aware that services like this exist! At first, I thought I might need health insurance or money to pay out of pocket, but this was free. Make sure to check your location to see if they offer free testing.

I also think there’s more stigma surrounding teens having sex than other age groups, making them not want to reveal their sexual history. But one in four sexually active teens will have an STI. They’re common and there’s no need to be ashamed. In fact, most people will have an STI in their lifetime! If you do get one, know most are curable, and if not, treatable.

My Experience

When it was my turn, I was taken to an examination room and asked some routine questions about my health and habits, like weight, height and if I thought I had any symptoms. I did not feel interrogated, it was just a conversation.

Then, the practitioner took me to one of the bathrooms. She gave me a label with my name, and a card with a telephone number. She said I’d get a call from this number in about a week. There was another number on the card that I would type in to hear my private results. She told me to put the label on the cup I used and leave it in the designated area. It was as simple as that!

After the urine test, I was free to leave. However, before I did, I asked what they would use my demographic information for and if lots of people take advantage of testing. They said my information was used to record any positive cases, just so they can follow up with treatment recommendations, and that STI testing was one of their most commonly-used services.

More Testing, Less Shame

Walking out of the clinic, I knew that I had done myself a favor. I got to get over my fear of getting tested for STIs and then share information about this amazing and accessible service.

Every teen should be able to take care of their health without consequences, and that’s why testing needs to become more common. We can reduce shame by not judging STI testing but instead seeing it as a preventative step toward reducing the number and spread of STIs and preventing potential long-term effects of STIs.

STIs are often spread because people do not even know they have one. Testing can change this! Please consider checking it out.

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