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Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) & HIV
How do I get tested for genital herpes?

How do I get tested for genital herpes?

Updated on:
February 16, 2022

A healthcare provider can complete testing for genital herpes through swabs, blood testing, and visual diagnosis.

The incubation period for genital herpes is typically 2-12 days. Testing for HSV too early (before the 12 day mark) can result in a negative test result, even if you have the virus. If you suspect you've been exposed to genital herpes:

  1. Stop all sexual activity until you receive a formal diagnosis 
  2. Make an appointment with your doctor for approximately 12 days after the exposure - unless symptoms appear before the 12-day mark. 
  3. See a doctor immediately if you begin to experience symptoms.

What tests are available for genital herpes?

Common methods for testing genital herpes include swabs, blood testing, and visual examination by a healthcare provider. 

The most common testing method in Canada is swabbing the lesion’s surface and sending it to a lab for testing. This cell culture test can determine whether HSV-1 or HSV-2 caused the genital herpes infection. 

Swab testing is most likely to detect HSV when completed within 72 hours of symptoms first appearing. 

Getting regular STI tests is a critical way to prevent infection or reinfection of sexual partners.

Where can I obtain a test for genital herpes?

Your family physician and most walk-in medical clinics can perform genital herpes testing. Testing for genital herpes is not standard in STI screenings, so make sure to mention to your healthcare provider that you may have been exposed. 

Sexual health testing facilities are also available to perform screening and treatment:
[Link to sexual health resources]

How long does it take to get the results back for a gentile herpes test?

Test results for genital herpes swabs and blood tests can vary but usually take about seven days. During that time, abstain from all sexual contact.

Reviewed by:
Dr. Caley Shukalek

Caley is passionate about evidence-based, patient-centred care, including telemedicine that can provide high quality care from wherever a patient may choose.

He helped create Alberta's PrEP guidelines and works as a specialist in General Internal Medicine with additional training in sexual health, including HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

He holds an Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, an MD from the University of Calgary and an MSc from the University of Alberta.