Free STD testing may sound good in theory, but there are a few pitfalls in practice that you as a patient need to be aware of. There are options for free STD testing nearby and available to you, either from your local city or county clinic to locations that are run and funded by nonprofit organizations. Though these free STD testing opportunities can be a good resource, the experience can often be frustrating and embarrassing for some people.
Long Waits To Get Tested
Because so many people are looking to find cheap or free STD testing, you’ll likely not be the only one waiting to get tested. Free STD testing clinics have notoriously long wait times, which means you could be sitting in a waiting area wasting your day instead of using your time in a way that’s more productive.
Lack of Privacy
Let’s address one of the biggest issues with free STD testing clinics: lack of privacy. When you stop by your local free STD testing clinic, the purpose of your visit is clear and obvious. Free STD testing locations commonly only offer one service: free STD testing. That means when you stop by one of these clinics, if you’re seen or recognized, your dearly held privacy concerning your sexual health is taken away. Making the choice to get tested is a very personal one, and it’s one that many people would like to keep as private as possible for numerous reasons.
Potentially Awkward Test Visits
When you’re seen at a free clinic or other free STD testing location, you’ll often be seen by a medical professional or member of the staff who will run through a series of awkward or uncomfortable questions in an effort to collect data that is analyzed and used by state or local health departments. How many sexual partners have you had? What kinds of sex do you engage in? Do you engage in sex with members of the same sex, opposite sex, or both? Have you had a recent sexual encounter that you are concerned about? These are just a few of the potentially questions you may be asked at a free STD test location before you receive testing.
Long Waits to Receive Your Results
Free STD testing clinics don’t have the lab partnerships that other STD testing providers have. While the test itself may be free for you, there is no additional incentive to process your test results quickly so that you can ease your mind. Your test will be one in a large batch to be processed, remembering also that with as many people who seek out the free STD testing option, there will be that many more tests for them to process and send to the lab, including yours.
Not Necessarily Free
The term “free STD testing” isn’t always what it seems. Though there are some nonprofits that fund their ability to provide free STD testing through the money they raise or grants they receive, some actually require a donation from you. Some may advertise that they offer free STD testing, but it’s likely that testing doesn’t cover all of the most common STDs and might only test for specific STDs at no cost to you. Bottom line: Be sure to do your research as to what “free” really means.
Awkward Test Visits
Clinics that offer free STD testing often are not using the most up-to-date testing methods available to medical professionals. It used to be that, for certain STD tests, namely bacterial infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis, that you had to offer a swab sample. These swab tests can often be quite painful, and sadly many clinics are still using them out of cost necessity or just habit. Modern testing methods have nearly eliminated the need for these painful swab tests. Do your own body a favor and find a location where you don’t have to worry about the unnecessary and potentially painful swab method.
Not All STDs May Be Covered
Free STD testing doesn’t always include testing for every STD it’s possible you could have contracted. The incentive to offer free STD testing for government health programs and nonprofits is to help reduce the number of infections from STDs that have potentially life threatening or serious health consequences. That’s why it’s much more common to find free STD testing clinics that only offer free HIV testing for example. As HIV is an infection that poses a great health risk to the general population, it’s considered to be cost effective to get more people tested by offering free STD testing. It’s far less common to see free STD testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, or especially herpes.
Less Reliable Tests
Your health is important, and you should be accessing only the best tools in order to help you protect it. Some clinics that offer free STD testing are using cheaper and older generation STD tests in order to save on costs. However, as technologies improve, so do the accuracy rates of results. Using an older STD test means a higher risk of your results being inaccurate. While free STD testing may seem more cost effective at first, an inaccurate result could cost you more than the money you saved on the initial free STD testing. We encourage everyone to invest wisely when it comes to your sexual health.
As STD testing professionals, at Priority STD Testing, we understand why patients might seek out lower cost or free STD testing options. We encourage everyone who is sexually active to have all the information necessary to make the right choice for their sexual health and their STD testing needs available to them. Weighing the pros and cons of free STD testing options should be part of that consideration, and Priority STD Testing strives to be a trusted partner in your sexual health. For more information about specific STDs and the STD tests available to you, visit our STD symptoms or STD Tests and Pricing pages.