What's Actually Included in a Full STI Panel?

When it comes to your sex life, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) aren't the most romantic topic, but that doesn't mean they aren't deserving of your attention. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found more than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in 2021, according to a recently released report.

"Testing for STIs is a great way to identify and hopefully prevent damage, because a lot of people don't realize that they can have an STI without symptoms and therefore don't get tested."

That increase could be, in part, due to the fact that less people are wearing condoms. But regardless of the reason, STIs are a reality for many, and it's important to get regularly screened. Oftentimes that means getting a full STI panel, or STD panel, a comprehensive way to test for a set of sexually transmitted infections.

"Testing for STIs is a great way to identify and hopefully prevent damage, because a lot of people don't realize that they can have a STI without symptoms and therefore don't get tested," says Adrienne Ton, ARNP, a family nurse practitioner and the director of clinical operations at TBD Health, a sexual-wellness brand that provides affordable and shame-free reproductive care. However, untreated STIs (with or without symptoms) can lead to long-term problems such as pelvic pain, infertility, pregnancy complications, or organ damage, including in the heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes, Ton explains.

Plus, leaving one STI untreated can increase your risk of getting another STI, so it's especially important to diagnose and treat infections sooner rather than later, Ton says. "Getting tested regularly is an important way to help keep yourself safe and healthy, and to help avoid spreading infections to your partner(s)."

In order to be thorough in ruling out any and all sexually transmitted infections, a full STD panel is your best option. If you're not quite sure what's included in a full STD panel, POPSUGAR talked with sexual health experts to find out exactly what's included in a full STD panel and how often you should be screened. Here's the deal.

What Is an STD Panel?

Simply put, an STD panel, or STI panel, is a group of tests that screen for common sexually transmitted infections. "The panel can often be taken from a single sample, like a urine or vaginal swab, and may include some blood work as well," says Kameelah Phillips, MD, an ob-gyn and the founder of Calla Women's Health. "Because STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea may be asymptomatic but can lead to adverse health consequences down the line, your healthcare provider may recommend a STI panel at your next visit, even if you feel healthy or aren't showing symptoms."

Some providers may also refer to an STD panel as an STI panel, but they are the same thing, says Suzy Lipinski, MD, an ob-gyn at Pediatrix Medical Group. "Infections cause disease so there is no relevant difference, but STI has become the preferred term because many infections are asymptomatic," she explains. Both terms are used interchangeably to refer to infections passed from one person to another through sex, but "infection" can also be less stigmatizing than "disease," so the CDC and most practitioners have transitioned to STI terminology, adds Dr. Phillips.

What Is Included in a Full STD Panel?

A full STI panel can vary by provider, but at a minimum, an STI panel typically includes testing for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C at least once in your lifetime, and gonorrhea and chlamydia testing at least annually or with new partners, says Ton. "Infections like herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV) aren't generally included in the full panel, but certain types of HPV are tested routinely with Pap smears (cervical cancer screenings)," says Dr. Lipinksi.

For a complete STI panel, you will typically need a blood test, a urine sample, and/or genital swabs, says Dr. Lipinski. The testing method varies depending on which STI you're being tested for. Typically, urine or genital swabs are used for gonorrhea and chlamydia, while blood is used to test for hepatitis B and C, HIV, and syphilis, Dr. Lipinski explains.

If you want to be tested for a particular STI, you can always talk with your healthcare provider about it. Otherwise, the recommendations for which tests are needed for a complete STI panel might vary based on the clinician or medical organization you are working with, your physical anatomy, the types of sex you have, and the number of partners you have sex with, says Ton.

And while there isn't necessarily a universal recommendation for how often you should get a full STI panel, a general rule of thumb is after every new partner, with pregnancy, and every year under age 25 if you're sexually active, says Dr. Lipinski. However, if you have multiple partners or aren't sure about any partner's STI status, then screening as frequently as every three months is recommended, adds Ton.

More below on the STIs typically included in a full STI panel, how often you should test for them, and what the STI panel testing entails.

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

Ton says gonorrhea and chlamydia testing is recommended at least annually or with new partners. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are usually tested for using a single urine sample or genital swabs.


Syphilis, which more often is being passed down in utero, is tested via blood samples. Ton recommends that you get tested for it at least once in your lifetime. But the CDC advises more frequent testing for those who have multiple partners or identify as gay or bisexual men, or men who have sex with other men. Pregnant people are also encouraged to get tested for syphilis starting in early pregnancy, along with HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.


The HIV test will be done using blood samples. You should have an HIV test done at least once in your life, says Ton. For those with certain risk factors (e.g. you've had anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV or you've had more than one sex partner since your last HIV test), the CDC suggests getting tested at least once a year.

Herpes 1 and 2

Herpes 1 and 2 are not typically included in a full STI panel. But it often depends on the provider. PlushCare, an online health and medical service, does include herpes 1 and 2 in its full STI panel, and the tests are done via blood sample.

Hepatitis B and C

Ton recommends getting tested for hepatitis B and C at least once in your lifetime. If you identify as a gay or bisexual man, or you're a man who has sex with other men, and you're living with HIV, the CDC recommends that you get tested at least once a year for hepatitis C. Hepatitis B and C are tested for using blood samples.

For more in-depth screening recommendations, you can visit the CDC's detailed guidelines to help inform what tests you may want to include in your next STI panel.

The Bottom Line

STIs are incredibly common. In fact, over half of people in the US will have one at least once in their lifetime, according to recent data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. But getting tested is crucial in protecting your health and that of your future partner(s).

Getting an STI panel done ensures that you know exactly what's going on in your body and puts you on the road toward safer sex. If any of your results from the STI panel are positive (you can expect results within two to three days of testing, Ton says), your doctor will address next steps, which may include treatment medications, like antibiotics or antiviral drugs, or in the case of HIV, antiretroviral therapy, per the National Institutes of Health.

It's important to remember that many STIs aren't accompanied by symptoms, so getting screened regularly is vital even if you feel healthy or your partners say they have been tested, says Dr. Phillips. The only way to know for sure is to get a full STI panel. Dr. Phillips recommends using the CDC clinic locator to find a testing clinic near you.