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Ask Ang October 22


  1. I recently had unprotected anal sex. Taking the different incubation periods for STIs into consideration, how long should I wait to get reliable STI testing?

The shortest answer here is that you should talk with your doctor or a clinic, like Whitman Walker, within 72 hours of having unprotected sex if you believe that your partner might be able to transmit HIV (i.e. not on PrEP and HIV-positive). This will allow you to begin Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), which is about 80-90% effective at preventing an HIV infection.

The slightly longer answer is that you should wait three months (90 days) before testing in order to get the most reliable possible test results. The longest STI to incubate is HIV, but, according to the CDC, it can be detected between 18 and 45 days after exposure through a laboratory test of blood taken from your vein. Blood from a finger prick and other rapid test methods can begin to detect HIV as late as 90 days after exposure. So, if you want the most reliable results, and you have not shown signs of other STIs (e.g. unexpected inflammation, irritation, or lesions on the genitals), wait 90 days.

The very long answer is that you should consider your unique situation and seek to make the sex that you have in the future is as safe as possible. Whenever possible, try to use latex or non-latex condoms to prevent many STIs. Some, including herpes and HPV, can still be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, so, make sure you are aware of your herpes status (by getting tested!) and learn about the risk factors associated with herpes transmission. Additionally, if at all possible, try to get vaccinated for HPV. If the vaccine is not covered by insurance, click here to find an alternative method to get vaccinated for HPV. Also, if you find that one or more of the following items applies to you, you might consider taking Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent the risk of contracting HIV.

-You and/or your partner(s) don’t always use condoms (external or internal) when you have sex.

-You have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the last six months.

-You’re unsure of the HIV status of your sexual partner(s).

-Your sexual partner(s) are HIV-positive.

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