How Long Does It Take for An STI To Show Symptoms?

STI incubation periods and the Benefits of early detection and treatment

We live in an age of sexual freedom. It is socially acceptable to have multiple partners, within reason, and ever since the onset of Pill in the 1970s, the concept that sex is free has grown and grown. Until, that is, you contract a Sexually Transmissible Infection (STI) risky from sexual activity.

What is an STI?

Sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are infections that you can get if engage in unprotected sexual activities such as oral, vaginal and anal sex. Some STIs such as Scabies can also be passed through non-sexual contact such as sharing a towel, bed or clothing of a person who also has scabies. In the past STIs have been known as Sexually Transmissible Diseases (STDs) or venereal disease (VD), but these terms that are now less common.

STI Rates Are Up

STI rates have been rising for the last 6 years, which means the risk of contracting or transmitting a Sexually Transmissible Disease are higher than they were:

  • Chlamydia – 19% increase since 2014
  • Gonorrhea – 63% increase since 2014
  • Primary and Secondary Syphilis – 71% increase since 2014
  • Congenital Syphilis – 185% increase since 2014
STI Incubation Periods

STI Incubation Periods

What Is an STI Incubation Period?

Unsafe sexual behaviours such as engaging in unprotected sex or having many consecutive partners without getting tested are partly to blame for the spread of STIs, but the other problem with STIs is that they have an incubation period.

The incubation period of an STI is the name given to the time it takes after contracting the infection to showing symptoms. STI symptoms don’t show straight away, in fact some STIs don’t show symptoms in some people at all (such as Chlamydia), which means that you may have contracted an STI and passed it on without even knowing about it.

Actual incubation times vary – some symptoms can develop within a few days or weeks, but some dont appear until months or even years later.

Chlamydia – 7–21 days

Genital herpes – 2–12 days

Genital Warts – 3 weeks to 1 year

Gonorrhea – 1–14 days

Hepatitis A – 15–50 days

Hepatitis B – 8–22 weeks

Hepatitis C – 2–26 weeks

HIV – 2–4 weeks

HPV – 1 month–10 years (depending on type)

Oral herpes – 2–12 days

Pubic Lice – 5 days-3 weeks

Scabies – 1-2 months for 1st infection, 2 days for reinfection

Syphilis – 3 weeks–20 years (depending on type)

Trichomoniasis – 5–28 days

What are the symptoms of an STI

What are the symptoms of an STI?

STIs can cause a range of uncomfortable physical symptoms. If you or your partner show any of these symptoms it is important that you arrange an appointment at a sexual health clinic such Stigma Health as soon as possible and certainly before you engage in sexual activity with a different partner:


  • discharge from the vagina or penis
  • pain when peeing
  • vaginal bleeding between periods or after sex
  • pelvic pain in women
  • testicular pain in men
  • About 50% of men and 70% of women who are infected do not have any symptoms.
  •  Incubation Period:
  • Usually 1 – 3 weeks but can be several years. Symptoms may never show             

Genital herpes

  • Mild soreness
  • Painful ulcers around vulva or penis.
  • Symptoms can come back from time to time

Genital Warts

  • small, fleshy growths or bumps on the genitals or around the anus – these are usually painless, but may be itchy


  • Green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis
  • Pain when peeing 
  • About 10% of men and 50% of women who are infected do not have any symptoms.

Hepatitis A

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Dark urine
  • Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice).

Hepatitis B

  • Loss of appetite
  • Sickness
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Possible symptoms of liver disease

Hepatitis C

  • Mainly picked up without having sex, for example, when sharing needles.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sickness
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Possible symptoms of liver disease


  • Flu-like illness
  • Fever a couple of weeks after exposure
  • Sore throat
  • Blotchy red rash
  • Swollen glands
  • Sweating
  • Loss of weight
  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhoea.
  • AIDS may eventually develop. This can be associated with many different conditions, including unusual infections, skin cancer and brain disorders such as dementia.


  • If HPV goes away on its own, it does not cause any health problems
  • If HPV persists, it can cause genital warts and cancer.

Oral herpes

  • Initial redness
  • Swelling
  • Heat/pain or itching in the area where the infection will erupt.
  • Painful, highly contagious fluid-filled blisters on lips or under nose.
  • Blisters will leak fluid and become sores.

Pubic lice

  • Public lice are tiny insects which lay their eggs along hair shafts.
  • Intense itching in the pubic area
  • Red spots
  • Inflammation
  • black powder in your underwear
  • blue spots or small spots of blood on your thighs or lower stomach


  • Intensely itching skin
  • Spotty red rash


  • One or more small sores or ulcers
  • Blotchy rash
  • Flu-like symptoms a few weeks later
  • Symptoms are often not obvious and may come and go


  • discharge from the vagina or penis
  • pain when peeing
  • itchiness or discomfort around the opening of the vagina
  • About 50% of men and women who are infected do not have any symptoms.
Should I Tell My Partner I have an STI

Should I Tell My Partner I have an STI?

The short answer here is “Yes, if it is safe to do so”. Think of it this way: If your partner had an STI would you want them to tell you about it?

We at Stigma Health have created a special blog post to help you through this difficult but important discussion: How Do I Tell Someone I Have An STI?

How Can I avoid Getting An STI?

The best way to protect yourself and your partner is by using condoms, or at least having a set of STI tests when you interact with a new partner. The CDC recommends that all sexually active adults with new or multiple sexual partners perform STI tests every year, especially for chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Get Tested

Using sexual health clinics during coronavirus

During this Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is best to call a sexual health clinic if you need help or advice. Only go to a clinic if you’ve been told to.

Stigma Health is your Australian online sexual health clinic for STI testing. We provide you with discreet access to a range of STI tests from one of thousands of pathology centres in Australia.

A sexual health check should be a regular part of your healthcare. We’ve made the process of getting a STI/STD check simple, cost effective, convenient and shame-free. We recommend that you are screened for several different STIs, in case of multiple infection. Get tested now and pave the way for a healthier sexual future.