Just the facts: Here’s what to know about sexually transmitted infections and diseases.
What’s the difference?
Sexually transmitted infections are caused by either bacteria or a virus, transferred during sexual contact. Some of these infections never show symptoms, but when they do, they’re considered sexually transmitted diseases.
Who’s at risk?
Nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections occur each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Half of those cases are among people ages 15 to 24.
Options for getting tested for STIs and STDs include:
- Through your primary doctor or a specialist such as a gynecologist
- Visiting an independent STD testing laboratory
- Using at-home STD testing kits, available online
- At university health centers
- At health department clinics
- At health centers such as Planned Parenthood
Free STD testing
If you have health insurance, testing and counseling for many STDs must be covered in your plan and at no cost under the Affordable Care Act. If you’re uninsured, many clinics offer testing free or for a reduced price, depending on your income. The CDC has a directory of free and confidential testing centers.
Cost of STD testing
If you can’t get tested for free, the cost is typically less than $200 for independent STD services and mail-in kits. However, those that test for many STDs may cost $350 or more. If you have a health savings account, flexible spending account or health reimbursement arrangement, you can use that to pay for testing.
The cost and length of treatment depend on which type of infection you have.
- Bacterial infections such as syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia typically are treated with antibiotics, taken either as a shot or pills. Antibiotics may be free with your health insurance or available for a low copay; even if you don’t have insurance, generic antibiotics can be fairly inexpensive.
- Viral infections such as HIV, herpes and hepatitis may be much more complicated and costly to treat. If you test positive for a viral STI, your doctor can discuss treatment options with you.