Chlamydia is one of the United Kingdom’s most common sexually transmitted infections. It is particularly common in young adults and teenagers who are sexually active, and is transmitted via unprotected sex. If you are concerned that you may have been infected with chlamydia during the course of sexual activity, there is only one method by which you can be sure one way or the other – and that is to get tested. Testing can be done regardless of whether or not you are experiencing any symptoms. If you are under the age of 25, are sexually active and live in the UK, then you should be tested at least once a year, or whenever you gain a new sexual partner, as this increases the chances of being infected with chlamydia.
The time to get tested
If you have any fear that you have been infected with chlamydia you should undergo testing as soon as possible. The chances of any serious complications related to a chlamydia infection developing are considerably reduced if you receive early diagnosis and treatment. A chlamydia test can be taken at any time. However, it may be a good idea to have another test, in the event that less than two weeks had passed since your last sexual encounter at the time of the first test. This is because the infection can be very difficult to detect in its earliest stages.
A chlamydia test is advisable if:
- Any symptoms are present in you or your sexual partner
- A condom splits during sexual intercourse
- You believe you may have some form of sexually transmitted infection
- You are pregnant or intending to become pregnant
- You have had sexual intercourse with a new partner without protection
- You or your current sexual partner have had sexual intercourse with anyone else without protection
- A current or former sexual partner informs you that they have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection
If you are diagnosed with a chlamydia infection, it’s likely you will be offered another chlamydia test three months after the completion of your treatment. This is due to the fact that young adults who contract chlamydia are highly likely to become re-infected.
The testing process
The tests that are recommended in order to detect a chlamydia infection are painless, very simple and usually highly reliable. Testing involves the sending of cell samples for laboratory analysis. You can actually take the sample yourself without needing to be examined by a nurse or doctor. The sample may be collected in two main ways:
- The first is to make use of a swab, gently wiping a small cotton bud over the relevant area, such as the interior of the anus or vagina
- The other is to urinate into some sort of container, preferably at least an hour or two after your last urination
A urine sample is generally the preferred option from men, while women tend to be asked for either a urine sample or vaginal swab. The results can usually be expected between seven to ten days. In some cases, treatment for chlamydia can begin before the results arrive; in the event that you are presenting with likely symptoms, or your sexual partner has already been diagnosed with the infection.
Where to get tested
Confidential chlamydia tests are available from:
- Sexual health clinics
- Genitourinary medicine clinics
- The great majority of contraceptive clinics
- Local GPs
You should use whichever place you find the most convenient and comfortable. Home chlamydia testing kits are also available, although their reliability can be dubious. If you are thinking of making use of one of these tests, seek advice from your local GP or pharmacist. If you are under the age of 25 you can be tested within the National Chlamydia Screening Programme, which can often be found in places such as youth centres, colleges and pharmacies. Young people in certain areas can also order a postal testing kit via the internet within the National Chlamydia Screening Programme, so you may want to perform an online search for free online tests for those under 25, in order to see if this service exists in your local area.