STD is the generic name for a number of infections that can be transmitted through unprotected intercourse. Currently, the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remains high, despite advances in modern medicine in diagnosing, treating, and curing most of these diseases.
How Much Does STD Testing Cost?
If you have health insurance, usually the cost of an STD test will be fully covered. But if this is not the case, be prepared to copay anywhere between $15 and $35 per test.
Depending on the test, patients without health insurance will have to pay anywhere between $60 and $220 for a test at a doctor’s office.
If you don’t want to go to a doctor’s office for an STD test to avoid the registration of the testing and the result in the permanent medical record, you can go to a private STD testing company. But these companies do not accept health insurance. There you would pay anywhere between $60 and $110 per test, depending on the disease, or $320 to $410 for a package of seven to ten STD tests, HIV included.
You can obtain a discounted or even free STD test at many clinics. Usually, students have discounts at their university health centers.
You can take an HIV test from the comfort of your home with the help of a Home Access test kit. Its price is anywhere between $50 and $64 and is the only brand approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This test involves collecting a blood sample at home and mailing it to a laboratory, then talking on the phone with a counselor to find out the results.
Most health insurance policies cover the costs of some STD tests as part of their routine or yearly wellness exams, or for high-risk patients, like the one with many partners. Also, these are covered if medically deemed.
STD test details
The most common pathogens involved in sexually transmitted infections are syphilis, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia trachomatis, but there are other causes of disease such as infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus, genital herpes type I and II or Trichomonas vaginalis.
Once the body is infected with HIV, it begins to produce antibodies. These antibodies can be detected even after six weeks, but usually no later than three months after infection.
For the HIV test to be safe, you will have to wait at least six weeks since the risk of infection appeared, or even six months for certain tests.
The test proceeds as follows: your doctor takes a blood sample and sends it to a test lab; the lab will look into whether those antibodies and certain components of the virus have appeared in the blood; the doctor will receive the tests after approx. a week; the doctor will first explain the results to you, then tell you what to do next.
Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) and Neisseria gonorrheae (GC) infections are two of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 1,401,906 new cases of Chlamydia trachomatis infection and 820,000 new cases of Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection in 2013. Endocervical tampons in women and the first jet of urine in men are used as samples.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can be easily ignored. The first symptom is the painless chancre (ulceration of the skin) at the site of exposure, which will disappear by itself, giving the impression that the infection has resolved, but in fact, it persists for a period of time without giving symptoms. The test is ordered to screen for infection with Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes syphilis. It is a specific test for syphilis, which means that it is unlikely to give positive results in other conditions than syphilis. Once a person is infected, antitreponema antibodies remain in the person’s serum for the rest of their life.
Genital herpes can only be diagnosed after a medical check-up. The specialist will analyze the patient’s symptoms and injuries and will recommend blood tests to detect the level of antibodies in the body. After the tests, the doctor will know if the person tested has genital herpes or not, but not what is the source of the infection or how long the virus has been in the body.
The HPV test is also known as HPV genotyping. The test is performed by collecting a sample of cervical cells, as in the case of collection for Pap smears. The sample is collected in special containers and sent to the laboratory. The HPV test can be done from the same sample collected for the Pap test if the chosen method is the one in a liquid medium. The test is not painful, and the discomfort may exist only when the medical instrument is inserted to remove the walls of the vagina. The test presents no risks to the patient.
As side effects, patients may sometimes experience slight vaginal bleeding after the test. In the next 24-48 hours, it is recommended to avoid vaginal washing and sexual contact.
What are the extra costs?
HIV testing is a complicated process, and the period for an HIV test lasts three to six months. If you receive your negative result within this time frame but had unprotected intercourse outside of those dates, then it could be necessary that another test be done for a final result. There are incubation periods also for other STDs.
Besides the test itself, you will have to pay for the visit to the doctor, which may be anywhere between $80 and $210, or $15 to $35 if you have health insurance.
Important things to consider
Most STDs affect both men and women, but in many cases, they can be more severe in women. If a pregnant woman has an STD, the disease can cause severe problems for the fetus.
The most common manifestations of STDs are:
- unusual secretions (discharge) in appearance, color, or odor;
- persistent pruritus (itching) in the vaginal or perianal area;
- lesions, irritations, papules (swellings), or blisters in the genital, perianal, or other parts of the body;
- pain or burning during urination (dysuria);
- pain during intercourse (dyspareunia);
- discomfort in the genital area;
- lower abdominal pain.
The symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease differ depending on the type of infection and may manifest themselves after a long time from the time of infection or may be completely absent.
Based on your medical records, age, gender, and symptoms your gynecologist or family doctor can recommend the STDs you have to be tested for. Also, guidelines are offered by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.
When testing for HIV you have two options, anonymous or confidential, for which you have to decide ahead of time. If you choose the first option, you will receive a patient number, so no record of your name will be known by the clinic staff. On the other hand, when going for confidential testing, your name and contact information are required by the clinic. If the result is positive, it is sent to the state health department for disease-tracking purposes.
How can I save money?
You may be able to find a clinic that offers discounted or even free testing by searching on the official website of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or simply by calling 1-800-CDC INFO. Planned Parenthood also provides sliding-scale fees depending on income levels.