STI testing always starts with a talk. The doctor or nurse asks questions about your symptoms, how you’ve had sex and who with. They’ll also explain the testing procedure and tell you when and how you’ll get the results.
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea
At a Sense clinic you’ll always be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Chlamydia is the most common STI in the Netherlands, particularly among the under-25s.
If you are under 25, the test is free of charge.
Testing for other STIs
You may also be tested for other STIs. This is done, for example, if you:
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Have symptoms that indicate an STI
- Have had unsafe sex with someone who has a greater risk of STIs
- Were warned by a partner
In that case, you’ll be tested for syphilis, HIV and sometimes hepatitis B. You’ll always be asked about this first.
Some STIs are diagnosed based on your symptoms:
- Genital warts can only be diagnosed when you’ve got symptoms.
- The same goes for herpes, although the fluid in the cold sores is sometimes tested too.
- Scabies and pubic lice are also diagnosed based on symptoms.
So the tests you’ll have to undergo depend on your symptoms and the way you’ve had sex.
How are you tested?
STI testing is done in different ways:
- Urine test (men)
- Blood test (men and women)
- Swab (vagina for women and anus and throat for men and women)
The type of test depends on your symptoms and the way you’ve had sex. That’s why it’s important to discuss this with the doctor or nurse.
With new laboratory techniques, more and more STI tests can be done with urine samples. Male urine tests for chlamydia are just as reliable as a swab from the urethra. Female urine tests are slightly less reliable than a self-taken swab from the vagina.
Swab from the vagina
Women can take a swab from their own vagina. It’s easier than putting in a tampon! Insert a cotton bud into your vagina and wipe it for 10 seconds along the vagina wall. An examination using a speculum isn’t necessary unless you have symptoms.
Swab from the penis opening
A urine sample is sufficient to test for chlamydia in men. To test for gonorrhoea, a cotton bud is sometimes used to take fluid from the urethra. This may be necessary if you have discharge from the penis, or pain while you pee.
An anus swab
You can usually take a swab from the anus yourself. Insert a cotton bud and wipe it for 10 seconds along the wall of your anus. If you’ve got symptoms in or around your anus, your doctor may have to take a look at it. This is done with an instrument that is inserted a short way into the anus. It’s used to take some fluid and to look at the anus from the inside. The doctor or nurse is then able to see genital herpes blisters, genital warts or a syphilis ulcer.
A throat swab
Sometimes a swab is taken from the back of the throat. The doctor or nurse wipe the cotton bud along the back of the throat close to your tonsils. This doesn't hurt.
To test for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B, you need to have a blood test done. A blood sample is taken and sent to a laboratory.
At some STI clinics you’ll be able to have a rapid HIV test:
This is an HIV test which gives a result within an hour.
The advantage of a rapid test is that it gets you a result quickly.
The disadvantage is that the rapid HIV test only gives a very reliable result 3 months after you possibly became infected with HIV.
When is the test reliable?
- Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can be tested from 2 weeks after sexual contact.
- Tests for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B give a reliable result after 3 months.
- Do you have symptoms that might indicate an STI? Then don't wait. Go and see your doctor or make an appointment for an STI consultation at a GGD health centre or Sense clinic.
Young people under 25 can have an STI test done at a Sense clinic free of charge.
For tests done by your own doctor, the costs will depend on your health insurance. Usually an STI test is covered by standard health insurance. Keep in mind that there may be an excess amount to pay yourself. Do you want to be sure about the costs? Ask your doctor or your health insurer.