Clinics & Testing
Last updated: Apr 11, 2023
Is this information still accurate? Request clinic updates
Last updated: Apr 11, 2023
Is this information still accurate? Request clinic updates
It’s a good time to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) when:
The window period is the time between when a person comes in contact with an STI and when the STI will show up on a test.
It is important to know about window periods because tests done too early may not be accurate. In other words, a negative test result may not actually be negative if the test is done too soon after a sexual contact.
Depending on the STI and the type of test used, the window period may be anywhere from a few days to six months. Use our STIs At A Glance chart to find out the window periods for different STIs to help you know when to get tested.
Know exactly what you are getting tested for. It helps to have a checklist to review with your health care provider to determine which tests you need.
You can print off the checklist provided below (under Additional Resources) and bring it with you on your next visit to your health care provider.
Call ahead if you have questions about:
Things your health care provider may ask you about:
Your health care provider may ask you some personal questions about your sexual history. Answer as honestly as you can, and all of the information you give is confidential. The information you tell your health provider will help determine what tests and treatments are best for you. You don’t have to share any information you do not want to. You can also refuse any questions, tests or treatment.
Testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be done at a public health unit, health clinic or doctor’s office. A visit may take between 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the clinic and what tests you need. It may be helpful to bring a checklist to talk with your health care provider about what tests you might need.
As part of taking care of your health, you may want to talk with a health care provider about sex. Health care providers include nurses, nurse practitioners, family doctors, specialists, counsellors, and sex therapists.
If you have any sexual concerns, health care providers can give you information and support. They may not bring up the topic of sexual health, but most providers are usually open to talking about it. They can rule out medical concerns or tell you where you can get help for relationship or emotional issues.
You may not have talked with your health care provider about sex before. Some people worry that if they are honest, their health care provider may judge them or may not provide the care that they need. While not all health care providers are sensitive to sexual concerns, many are. Sometimes it is just about starting the conversation.
Some things to consider:
Most STI test results come back from the lab within seven to ten days. When you get tested, talk with your health care provider about how you will get your results. Find out if you can call in, or need to return for your test results. If you cannot be contacted by phone, talk with your health care provider about how you will get your results.
If you have symptoms or are taking treatment, it is important to avoid any sexual contact until you and your partners have finished the treatment. Ask your health care provider about when it is OK to have sex.
If you get a negative test result, it means that the tests did not find an STI.
Each STI has a ‘window period’. This is the time between when a person comes in contact with an STI, and when the STI will show up on a test. If the test is taken too soon after contact there is a chance that a test result is not accurate. You may be asked to come back to be retested after the window period is over.
If you get a positive test result, it means that you have an STI and need treatment.
In BC, positive test results for reportable STIs are shared with public health to ensure that you and your partners are offered support and treatment. If you have a reportable STI, you will be asked about your sexual partners so they can be encouraged to get tested and treated. There are a number of ways to let partners know they need testing.
Some STIs are treated and cured with antibiotics. If you are being treated with antibiotics, it is important to take all the medication as directed by your health care provider to make sure the infection is completely gone. Sometimes you will be asked to return for a follow-up visit to be sure that the treatment worked. With STIs that are curable, it is possible to get them again.
Other STIs can be treated but not cured. Medication is used to help manage symptoms and keep a person healthy. If you are diagnosed with an STI caused by a virus, such as herpes simplex virus or HIV, you may have questions or concerns about how these STIs will affect your life. Find out more about what to do when you have just been diagnosed and about living with an STI.
Any information shared with a health care provider is confidential, including test results. When you go for STI testing, you may be asked for personal information such as your name, birth date, Medical Services Plan (BC Care Card) number, contact information (like phone number, address and email) and health history. This information is used to give the best health care, order tests and to contact you about the results.
All the health authorities in BC and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) are governed by privacy legislation. Privacy and data security are important and are taken very seriously. Personal information is kept secure and is not accessible to the public. For more information, please see the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of BC.
All test results: Any electronic or paper records of negative and positive test results are kept at your health care provider’s office.
Information about lab tests is routinely stored in laboratory databases where the specimens are process or tested. In BC, lab results are also kept in a provincial laboratory system called the Provincial Laboratory Information System (PLIS). The purpose of this electronic health (e-health) record is so that your health care provider will be able to see relevant parts of your health care record.
For more information about e-health systems in BC including PLIS, and more options for controlling access to your health information in these systems, please visit eHealth, Ministry of Health.
Positive test results: In BC, the Communicable Disease Regulation of the Public Health Act legally requires a lab and/or a physician to report any case of infectious disease, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs), to the Medical Health Officer (MHO) of the appropriate health authority. This reporting is done so that public health nurses can offer support to a person with a new diagnosis, ensure the notification and testing of partners and monitor the number of new infections. These results are kept in provincial and regional health authority electronic information systems.
In BC, STIs that must be reported include:
Within these databases, access to information is based on the health care provider’s role and whether they need the information in order to provide care or to carry out their legislated functions under the Public Health Act.
If you have a reportable STI, your health care provider will talk with you about how you want to tell your sexual partners. The purpose is to get people tested and treated and to stop the STI from being passed on.
You have some choices about how to let your partners know to get tested. You can tell your partners yourself or you can have a health care provider tell them for you. If a health care provider contacts your partners, your name or other personal information will not be used. The health care provider will tell the person they may have an STI and encourage them to come in for testing and treatment.
If you are under the age of 19, you can get confidential health care if a health care provider considers you old enough to make your own decisions about your health. This means your health care provider must keep your information private. They cannot contact your parents or guardians without your permission.
There are some exceptions to confidentiality for youth. If you, or any other youth under 19, are being harmed or are at risk of harm, the health care provider is required by law to report it to the proper authorities. This law is meant to help keep youth and children safe from abuse.
Many youth choose to go to youth clinics. These clinics offer free STI testing to youth – many youth clinics service people under the age of 24, but call the youth clinic nearest to you to find out the age cut-off.
STI testing can bring up feelings of worry and anxiety. You may worry about what will happen if you have an STI, or how to talk to your sex partner(s). Sometimes you might find this worry interfering with your day-to-day life.
Here are some suggestions to help you get through the time until you get your test results. You can find more information on our Resources page.