Test Basics.

What is an STD or HIV test?

STD Tests

STD stands for “sexually transmitted disease.” Sometimes they’re called STIs (sexually transmitted infections), which means the same thing. Some of the more common STDs include gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis.

Gonorrhea and Chlamydia

Your healthcare provider can test for gonorrhea and chlamydia through a pee sample. Some clinics take a swab from body parts that are likely to be infected (such as your penis) and send the sample to a lab.


Your healthcare provider can take a blood sample to test you for syphilis. If you have a sore (usually on your penis, anus, rectum, lips, or mouth), some providers may take a small sample of the material from that sore.

HPV (human papillomavirus)

There is no blood test to find HPV in men. It’s a good idea to check for anything unusual on your penis, scrotum, or around your anus. See your doctor if you find warts, blisters, sores, ulcers, white patches, or other abnormal areas on your penis—even if they don’t hurt.

Note: Some doctors use anal Pap tests to screen for anal cancer in men.
Want to learn more about these and other STDs?
Check out the CDC’s STD info http://www.cdc.gov/STD/

HIV Tests

HIV stands for “Human Immunodeficiency Virus.” An HIV test looks for signs of HIV in your body, known as antibodies. Your body produces antibodies when it’s trying to fight off an infection. If you have HIV antibodies, it’s a sign you have HIV.

When you get tested for HIV, you will usually give a sample of blood, but there are other kinds of HIV tests that use pee or a swab from your mouth instead. Some tests take a few days for results, but rapid HIV tests can give results in about 20 minutes. Here’s some more info on different tests:

  • Rapid HIV antibody tests use blood, oral fluid, or pee to detect HIV antibodies. Results for these tests can take 10–20 minutes.
  • Enzyme immunoassay (EIA) tests also use blood, oral fluid, or pee to detect HIV antibodies. Results for these tests can take up to two weeks.

How much $ will it set me back?

You don’t have to choose between taking a hot guy out to dinner or taking a test. Many places offer free or low-cost HIV and other STD testing. Some charge based on your income, while others accept health insurance, and some provide free testing to everyone.

Tip: It’s a good idea to call the testing location you have in mind to ask them their policy.

Do you have to share personal stats to get tested?

So you’re thinking of getting tested, but having strangers knowing your business (particularly ones you aren’t planning on having a little fun with) isn’t something you’re looking forward to. We get it.

HIV tests can be taken either “confidentially” or “anonymously.” Most states, including California, offer both anonymous and confidential testing.

The difference between confidential and anonymous is important to understand. Here is a more detailed explanation:

  • Confidential testing means that your name and other identifying information will be connected to your test results. The results will go in your medical record and may be shared with your healthcare providers and your insurance company. Otherwise, the results are protected by state and federal privacy laws.
  • Anonymous testing means that your name and other identifying information will not be connected to your test results. When you take an anonymous HIV test, you get a unique identifier (a.k.a. secret code) that allows you to get your test results. Not all HIV test sites offer anonymous testing. Contact the Santa Clara County Health Department at 408-792-5040, or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention at 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) to find anonymous test sites in your area.

Why get tested?

Did you know that there are an estimated 19 million new cases of STDs in the U.S. every year? Or that one in five people living with HIV in the United States doesn’t know they have it?

You might be thinking, “It’ll never happen to me. I’ve never slept with anyone who looks like they have an STD.” Think again. STDs are really common and people who have them often don’t have or show any symptoms.

The only way to know for sure if you have HIV or another STD is to get tested.

Maybe you don’t want to take a test because you don’t want to know the results. You’re definitely not alone. But the good news is once you know your status – positive or negative – you can take action. If you aren’t aware that you have HIV or another STD, you can’t get treatment to help you and protect your partners.

Should YOU get tested?

If you have had sex with someone whose history of sex partners or drug use is unknown to you, or if you or your partner have had many sex partners, then you have a higher chance of being infected with HIV. Both you and your new partner should get tested for HIV, and learn the results, before having sex for the first time.

If you answer yes to any of the questions below, you should get tested. In fact, consider making an STD and HIV test part of your routine every 3 to 6 months.

  • Have you injected drugs or steroids or shared equipment (such as needles, syringes, works) with others?
  • Have you had unprotected (sex without a condom), anal or oral sex?
  • Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money?
  • Have you been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB), or STDs?
  • Have you had unprotected sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions?

If you engage in any of these behaviors, you should be tested at least once every year. Talk to a healthcare provider about an HIV testing schedule that is right for you.

Remember, if you test negative, you can take steps to stay negative! For example, is your body a sex magnet? Good for you – use a condom correctly every time you have sex. Or maybe you’re injecting drugs? Never share needles or other drug injecting equipment.
Learn more about ways to protect yourself at Play Safe.

Sources: AIDS.gov, CDC.gov, GYT Campaign (Get Yourself Tested)