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STI Testing in Lockdown - Sexual Health Resources You Can Access From Home

STI Testing in Lockdown - Sexual Health Resources You Can Access From Home

Most STIs take between days and weeks to show up on tests, so with the country in lockdown for the past few weeks and physical contact with new partners at an all time low - it’s the perfect time to get your sexual health in check.

STIs are an unavoidable part of being sexually active - most people will contract one at some point in their life, and aside from abstinence there’s no way to completely eliminate that risk. There is an unfortunate amount of stigma surrounding catching an STI - but contracting one doesn’t mean anything about the ‘kind of person’ you are. You can reduce your chances of contracting an STI through correctly using condoms or dental dams. And if you do catch one? Most are curable and regular testing you can monitor your sexual health and help prevent further spreading.

The situation the country is in currently - social distancing and quarantine - presents an unusual opportunity to significantly reduce transmission of STIs. According to Dr John McSorley, a sexual health doctor and president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (Bashh), in a recent BBC feature: "If we could test and treat everybody for their infections now, that would be a game-changer going forward as people slowly move towards normality."

The redistribution of NHS staff and limited GP clinics naturally means that access to in-clinic testing is reduced at the moment - but fortunately, accurate and safe testing can be done at home.

So when is the ideal time to get checked after having sex? And how can you access those tests while you’re self-isolating?

How long it take STIs to show up on tests 

Depending on the STI, symptoms can develop within a few days or weeks, but sometimes they don’t show up for weeks, months or even ever. If you test too early after contracting an STI, then you might test negative for it despite having it. 

It can take different lengths of time for different STIs to show up on a test. These are the window periods for some of the most common Sexually Transmitted Infections:

Chlamydia: test from two weeks after sex

Type of infection: bacterial

Test: blood, swab, or urine tests

Genital herpes - test if symptoms present

Type of infection: viral

Test type: ulcer, culture or blood tests

Gonorrhoea - test from two weeks after sex

Type of infection: bacterial

Test type: blood, swab or urine tests

HIV - test from four weeks after sex 

Type of infection: viral

Test type: specific antigen / antibody test

Syphilis - test from three months

Type of infection: bacterial

Test type: blood

If you receive a positive result then the service which you tested with will provide you with advice about treatment.

Where can you access at-home testing?

Free services:

First of all, you can use the NHS website freetest.me to find out if free sexual health screening is available in your area. All you need to enter is your age and your postcode and it will search its database of services to find out if there is one which you can access for free.

SH:24

SH:24 are a sexual health service which works in partnership with the NHS to provide free and discreet, clinically safe services. They offer STI home testing kits, contraceptive services including the pill and emergency contraception as well as genital wart and genital herpes treatment. They are active in 20 areas of the UK - visit their website to find out if your area is covered. 

SHL

Sexual Health London (SHL) is London’s new sexual health e-service that provides free and easy access to sexual health testing via the internet and local venues. The service is available to people aged 16 and over who are residents in most Boroughs of London.

The service provides testing for a range of sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B and hepatitis C via samples you can collect at home.

HIV testing

For HIV specific testing, you can use the Test HIV service to find out if you live in an area which offers a free testing service. Alternatively, Test Now Stop HIV is a site ran by 56 Dean Street which has collated many of the free HIV testing services for you.

Paid service: Fettle

If free online testing isn’t available in your area and you don’t have access to a clinic at the moment then you could consider using a paid-for service instead. Fettle is the sister company to SH:24, and any profits generated through this service are reinvested into improving SH:24. They offer STI testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, contraception services and general clinical support and advice. 

Additional STI resources

Remember - STIs are very common and the majority of people who are sexually active will get one or more STI in their life. Getting an STI is no reflection on you as a person, and even if you catch one, you can still have relationships and sex with other people. For more information about STIs and their symptoms, you can look in the following places:

NHS website

Brook Sexual Health for Young People

Terrence Higgins Trust - STI information

The STD Project - STI? What Now? Your ultimate reference guide to living with an STD