Talking about sex with a doctor is not fun. Even though doctors are prepared to talk about these things and frequently discuss them with other patients, bringing up your own sex life to your provider can feel awkward or downright embarrassing, especially if the thing you want to talk about is a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
If you suspect you have an STD, though, you should talk to your doc as soon as you can. Don't wait for symptoms to appear, because many STDs don't show signs until months after you've contracted the disease, and some may not show signs at all.
But what if you can't afford to go to a doctor, or don't have access to one that can do a test? There are still plenty of options to get tested, and some of them are free. We rounded up all the different ways you can get checked for STDs without seeing your primary care doctor.
Where can I get a STD test without visiting my doctor?
If you can't stomach the idea of bringing up a potential STD to your usual physician -- or can't see them at all -- one of these testing sites might be right for you.
Planned Parenthood offers testing for most STDs, as well as hepatitis and HPV vaccines, sexual education and STD prevention help. The cost of an STD test at Planned Parenthood depends on which diseases you get tested for and your insurance. Some Planned Parenthood clinics offer free STD testing, and many offer low-cost testing.
Call the clinic near you to find out if you can get free or low-cost STD testing.
Urgent care clinics
Many urgent care clinics offer walk-in STD testing. You may or may not have a copay, depending on your insurance. An urgent care doctor will perform a physical exam to look for any obvious symptoms and will likely take a blood or urine sample and send it to a lab.
Once your results come back, an urgent care doctor can also prescribe any necessary medication.
Free STD clinics
Most cities have free STD clinics run by the local or county public health departments. You can find one quickly by doing a web search for your town and "free STD clinic." The easiest way to find free STD testing near you is to call your local health department and ask. STDs are a serious problem, and public health officials want to help you.
If you live in a sexually diverse city, there's a good chance there's at least one LGTBQ health clinic that offers STD testing. This may be the most comfortable environment for you if you're LGBTQ, and it's also often free or and quick.
For example, the Los Angeles LGBT Center offers free STD testing with results in just one week. Just like you'd search for a free STD clinic near you, try searching "LGBTQ STD testing" followed by your city's name.
If you have a regular OB-GYN, you can opt to go there for STD testing instead of your primary care office. There are two big reasons the conversation might feel easier at an OB-GYN office: You may not see this provider as regularly as you see your primary care physician, so it might be easier to divulge the details, and the premise of their profession is reproductive and sexual health. OB-GYNs talk about these things all day long, and knowing that can make you feel more comfortable.
Note that you still need insurance to see an OBGYN without paying full cost. The cost for your initial visit, lab work and any necessary follow-ups or prescriptions can add up, so this may not be the best route if you don't have insurance.
Some companies offer tests for individual STDs, while others offer complete panels. Either wait, note that online STD testing isn't an end-all -- instead, treat it as a first step. If you're testing out of pure curiosity, an STD test can offer you valuable information (and hopefully negative results).
But if you're testing after experiencing strange symptoms, such as painful urination or genital sores, or testing because you recently had sex with a new partner, it's a good idea to see a doctor or go to an in-person clinic, even if you get negative results.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.