Many adults don’t screen or test for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) because it may be unclear when, how, and why a person should test for STDs.

STDs, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and other venereal diseases are tricky to self-screen for since many don’t lead to visible symptoms for weeks. An added challenge to determining when to best get an STD test is that the faster you get a screening the more likely a doctor can begin effective treatment.

So what are the keys to getting an STD test? What are some of the factors that you need to know to optimize your STD prevention and care?

When to screen: if you’ve had unprotected sex with new sexual partners

Every medical professional will recommend that right after you have unprotected sex you should get an STD.

As explained above, the symptoms of an STD or STI don’t usually appear until after a week or so. Additionally, individuals that have unprotected sex with strangers or multiple sexual partners have the highest risk of contracting an STD.

Even if you are sure your partner doesn’t have an STD, make sure to get your test immediately!

How: go to your nearest walk-in clinic or urgent care center

When you are ready to get your STD test, it helps to know where you can quickly get your screening done. For most patients, an STD test can be easily completed at a nearby walk-in clinic or urgent care center.

An urgent care center is equipped with on-site providers that allow most patients to walk-in and receive an STD in a few minutes. Urgent care centers usually have significantly lower waits and costs for STD testing than other facilities like hospitals. For example, a patient could walk into an urgent care at any time during the day and get an STD test in less than an hour.

The STD test is pretty simple in most cases: your doctor or nurse will simply ask for a urine test, blood test, cheek swab, or physical exam. In some cases, your medical provider will take a sample or swab of the potentially infected area.

Urgent care centers and walk-in clinics also offer a private place for patients to get potentially sensitive personal health information. The clinic will personally follow-up with the patient to ensure that results stay discreet.

Why: STDs can lead to significant healthcare risks if untreated

Ultimately, an STD test is necessary in order to address any potential healthcare risks in the near future. An unaddressed STD can balloon from minor symptoms to severe healthcare risks.

Some patients may experience trouble with fertility and pregnancy if they don’t screen and treat an STD. Additionally, STDs including HIV/AIDS can be life-threatening without the proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Contracting a disease such as AIDS is extremely life-altering and stressful for the patient. But even diseases like HIV/AIDs can be treated if found early and allow a person to live a normal life.

So always make sure to screen for STDs when necessary to keep both your sexual and overall health intact.