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Dear Dr. Kate, How Long Do STDs Take to Show Up on Tests?

Thu, Nov 17, 2011

Advice, What's Up Doc?

photo via Flickr

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City and she answers your medical questions every few weeks on EMandLO.com. To ask her your own question, click here.

Dear Dr. Kate,

How soon after sexual relations would an STD test register a newly transmitted virus?

– Testy

Dear Testy,

Excellent question – depends on the virus or bacteria. Gonorrhea can show up the fastest, in about 4 days, followed by chlamydia (in 7 days) and syphilis (about 3 weeks), though all of these tests may take as long as a month to detect infection. HIV tests turn positive most often within 2 to 8 weeks (at about 3 weeks on average); since it may take longer to show up, the recommendation is to take one test at about 3 weeks, then test again about 3 months after exposure. HPV, on the other hand, can take months and possibly years before it shows up on testing or makes your pap smear abnormal. Herpes testing is generally only done if you have symptoms, which generally appear in 2 to 3 weeks. So bottom line – if you have sex without a condom, call your gyno the next morning for an appointment in about 3 weeks to first test for STDs. And if all comes out negative, test for HIV again in 3 months to be sure. Then remember how scary the waiting-for-results feels the next time you consider doing it without a condom!

– Dr. Kate
Gynotalk
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Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. She generously shares her medical wisdom with EM & LO readers every few weeks. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.

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4 Responses to “Dear Dr. Kate, How Long Do STDs Take to Show Up on Tests?”

  1. KG Says:

    I have to disagree about the HIV. it can take up 6 months for HIV to show up on a test. 95% of people show up in 3 months but we never know who is in that 5%

    -HIV Test Counselor

  2. emandlo Says:

    Good point. Dr. Kate based this answer on the CDC recommendation — and she considers the CDC a very reliable source, as do we:

    “Most HIV tests are antibody tests that measure the antibodies your body makes against HIV. It can take some time for the immune system to produce enough antibodies for the antibody test to detect, and this time period can vary from person to person. This time period is commonly referred to as the “window period.” Most people will develop detectable antibodies within 2 to 8 weeks (the average is 25 days). Even so, there is a chance that some individuals will take longer to develop detectable antibodies. Therefore, if the initial negative HIV test was conducted within the first 3 months after possible exposure, repeat testing should be considered >3 months after the exposure occurred to account for the possibility of a false-negative result. Ninety-seven percent of persons will develop antibodies in the first 3 months following the time of their infection. In very rare cases, it can take up to 6 months to develop antibodies to HIV.”

    http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/testing/resources/qa/index.htm

    But we agree: why not cover all your bases and be sure to get tested again 6 months after possible exposure. Better safe than sorry.

  3. Diamond Gold Says:

    Dear Dr. Kate,
    I have been to the doctor and been tested many of time I just actually just got test December 11 2012 I got my results back everything was negative. Well here recently my ex boyfriend had went home for Christmas when he came back about 3 or 4 weeks later he said I burnt him, but I don’t see how so when all my results are negative when I told him let’s go get tested together or I can go get tested and bring him the results he told me no and said I was cool he was gonna see what the doctor had to say I still took my test to him but haven’t heard from him in almost a month. But u don’t know if he got it from somebody else I’m trying to figure out weather I should go get tested again or not. Because truth be told I think he had sex with another girl and she burnt him but he try to blame me so what should I do to make sure I’m on the safe side?

  4. Kep Says:

    Dear Dr.Kate,
    Me and my girlfriend broke up and she slept with another atleast guy that i know of. It was sort of a one night stand and she honestly knew nothing about this guy at all not to mention he was 35 and and she was lets say much younger. She claims that’s the only guy and she says they used protection. I have not slept with anyone else and have not slept with her at all since we broke up. But now we are getting back together and i am very hesitant to have sex with her. she said it had been a month since she had sex with this guy . Will anything show up on a test right this moment? When will she know if she could have got an std if so at all. Will it ever be safe for me to sleep with her again?


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