Why Anal STI Testing Is Important Even Without Symptoms

Anal sex poses a high risk for numerous sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Furthermore, anal STIs are not easily detected during regular STI testing. That's why it's important to tell your healthcare provider if you're having anal sex so you can be tested accordingly.

A doctor talks with a patient
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How to Test for Anal STIs

Not all STI tests work in the same way. Some tests, like the ones for HIV, test your blood for signs your body has been exposed to the virus. You don't need to have a special anal STI test to detect HIV, syphilis, or hepatitis

In contrast, common tests for STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia look for the presence of the bacteria that causes the STIs. They do not test for your body's response to it. These tests can't always detect an STI you have contracted through anal sex. That's because they only test in the locations that they sample. 

Standard STI testing will not always detect an anal STI. It's important to tell your healthcare provider if you are having receptive anal sex so they can conduct the proper tests. This testing may include an anal Pap smear. Testing may also include swabs of the rectum to look for specific bacterial STIs that are frequently transmitted when individuals don't practice safe anal sex.

Risks of Anal Sex

All sexually active adults should be aware of the possibility of anal STIs and know that these STIs require separate testing. There may also be specific treatment concerns for anal STIs, such as rectal chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Detecting anal STIs is difficult during a standard screening exam if healthcare providers don't know their patients are at risk. Healthcare providers should ask their patients if they are having anal sex and encourage them to have safer anal sex as part of their sexual health discussions.

A Word From Verywell

Don't be embarrassed to discuss your sex practices with your healthcare provider. If you are having anal sex, talk to your healthcare provider. Let them know that you're interested in getting special tests to check for anal STIs. Most healthcare providers will appreciate your being upfront about your habits. It's the only way that they can give you the best care possible.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Assi R, Hashim PW, Reddy VB, Einarsdottir H, Longo WE. Sexually transmitted infections of the anus and rectumWorld J Gastroenterol. 2014;20(41):15262–15268. doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i41.15262

  2. Jenness SM, Begier EM, Neaigus A, Murrill CS, Wendel T, Hagan H. Unprotected anal intercourse and sexually transmitted diseases in high-risk heterosexual womenAm J Public Health. 2011;101(4):745–750. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.181883

Additional Reading

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.