Health professionals are often strong advocates of public awareness of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). However, you must take personal responsibility and get individual STD testing for the sake of yourself and your past, present and future sexual partners. Without clinical detection, an untreated STD can yield long-term damage and wreak havoc on an individual's physical and emotional well-being. Due to various public health campaigns and governmental funding, free STD tests are offered at many locations throughout the country.
Federal and state mandates typically allocate monetary grants toward public health sectors; therefore, in many states, free STD tests are usually available through public health departments and clinics. The Center for Disease Control's website hosts a zip code-based search that can locate free testing services within your close proximity. You can find other free STD testing resources by checking your state's public health website or your community's public health resources. Other resources include college campus health centers, which often have the resources to test for an STD or refer you to nearby clinics that offer free STD tests. Many testing locations offer walk-in testing on specific days, although appointments are also available.
Types of Diseases for Testing
STD is an umbrella term for various infections. Either bacterial or viral in nature, STD tests are administered differently, specific to the particular STD. STD tests are available for the following: genital herpes, genital human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and human immunodefiency virus (HIV) (See Reference 4). Tests are also available for Hepatitis B and C. Nationally, the most widespread free STD test is for HIV. However, different clinics offer free testing for other STDs as well.
Types of Tests
STD testing for viral infections is vetted through blood-based samples, but you can also be tested through an oral saliva sample. Medical personnel can test for bacterial infections by performing a physical examination, collecting cultures or using a blood-based method. For example, rapid HIV testing is typically done through a finger prick or by oral swab, both of which can yield an initial result within 20 minutes. Physical exams are administered to check for symptoms consistent with an STD. In some cases, medical professionals collect cellular cultures from the body for further testing and confirmation of an STD.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) generally protects private individual health information, ensuring its confidentiality. However, an STD is considered a communicable disease and medical organizations are required to report positive STD tests to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Based on public health concerns, mandated reporting of positive STD tests ensures greater public safety and education.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: National HIV and STD Testing Resources
- Avert: STD Statistics for the USA
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Region Map
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: STD Testing
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Definitions for Services Offered
- Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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