Graphic of two gloved hands testing blood and urine specimens

Tentative Test-taker: STI Testing

Dear Sexpert,

I have been sexually active with multiple partners for three years now. Though I am not currently experiencing symptoms nor know of exposure to anyone with an STI, I am really nervous that I may have contracted one. I remember learning that many STIs may have no signs or symptoms, so I am getting really anxious that I may have one, and it will be too late. I feel too embarrassed and scared to talk to my friends and family to ask about testing, however, I am concerned for my health and want to get checked out ASAP. Do you have any guidance for where I can get help?

— Tentative Test-taker

Dear Tentative Test-taker,

I am sorry to hear you are feeling anxious. You are being very proactive by reaching out with your concerns. To alleviate some of your anxiety, I want to first remind you that all sexually transmitted infections, when identified early enough, can be treated (i.e., those caused by viruses), if not cured (i.e., bacterial infections). So even if you test positive for an STI, medications can manage symptoms or even clear up infection entirely. You can still have healthy and fulfilling sexual experiences in the future. You also noted that you may be asymptomatic and have had no known exposures. If you have been practicing safer sex by doing things like using barrier methods consistently and properly, the chances of contracting an STI are very low.

One of the first steps that you may want to take is to communicate with your sexual partner(s). Ask them if they have any STIs that they are aware of or if they have recently had testing and share that you are concerned about transmission. Initiating the conversation will allow both you and your partner(s) to make well-informed decisions about the next steps to take. If you have not already discussed your partner(s) being non-monogamous, this is also an important conversation to have, as it can increase risk for your partner(s).

STI testing recommendations vary and depend on multiple factors, including behavioral and identity-based risks. Finding out more about whether you need testing is a smart decision, and you should not feel embarrassed about it. There are indeed resources right here on campus that can help you get answers.

Your MyUHS online portal features a new online STI testing program for asymptomatic testing, designed to include evidence-based educational information and enable you to make an informed decision about the type of testing you wish to pursue. Additionally, this testing is confidential, so you do not have to be concerned with other individuals, such as your family, finding out from UHS.

It is important to note that self-directed STI screening will be sent through Quest Laboratory and billed through insurance. If you wish to avoid using insurance (where an Explanation of Benefits will be mailed to the insurance holder [e.g., parent, guardian] and may result in questions about the procedure/testing), you should make an appointment with a nurse for a screening. Read more about costs if you choose not to use insurance — see “STI Testing” and “Lab Tests” on this page. Positive results for some STIs may be shared with state or city health departments for tracking purposes, but there are laws preventing health departments from sharing your test results with your family, friends, or employer.

To begin the STI testing process, follow the steps below:

  1. Log into your secure MyUHS online portal and choose “Princeton University” if prompted.
  2. Navigate to the Forms page.
  3. Scroll down to the Sexual Health and Wellness section and click on “Self-directed STI Testing.”
  4. Use the educational materials provided and/or access the application: STD Wizard, to decide what you want to be tested for and which body parts should be tested.
  5. Order your desired labs.

Once you receive a notification that your labs are ordered, you can go to the reception desk at McCosh Health Center during a time that is convenient for you (Monday–Friday, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.), to collect your specimen(s). 

According to the UHS website, lab test results are typically available within 24–48 hours. The UHS electronic health record automatically releases normal lab results to students via the patient portal. Positive lab results are reported to students by a nurse, enabling a discussion of any needed treatment. UHS is currently processing approximately three to ten online STI tests requests daily. This means that your peers are also taking advantage of this offering, even if they aren’t talking about it openly.

If you would prefer to go to an off-campus resource, such as an urgent care or Planned Parenthood, to get tested, that is also always an option. Thank you so much for reaching out about your concern. You are doing the right thing for your health by getting tested, and we are glad to be able to highlight this convenient UHS resource for you. If you have further questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to any of the PHAs.

We wish you all the best,

— The Sexpert