Doctor's office waiting room full of people waiting


What to Know About Free STD Testing

Just like private STD testing labs, public testing clinics are available to test for most common STDs for individuals. The biggest difference between the two is that public testing centers offers low-cost and free testing to the community.

These centers are typically funded by the local government agencies or by non-profit organizations. However, the testing they provide is still administered by medical professionals, ensuring samples are collected correctly and results are accurate.

Test results are typically returned to you within a timeframe of a few days to a few weeks, depending on the STD test performed. Some locations will only contact you directly if your results are positive. Otherwise, results will be shared with you in another fashion, which will be discussed with you at the location you choose.

If your STD test results do come back positive, many public health centers offer treatment options. Every public health center may not able to help with all diseases, so be sure to discuss this with the on-staff physician to create a plan if necessary.

Most visits at a public STD testing center are available by walk-in, although some locations allow appointments. Because of the open availability, wait times could be much longer, and even when appointments are allowed, the hours may be difficult to coordinate with your schedule. Also, while testing is discreet, most people who are visiting a public health center are there for a similar reason, so you may not feel as anonymous or that your visit is very confidential.

Free STD Testing – What to Expect

When you need an STD test, visiting a public testing site may be your best option. However, it’s important to prepare yourself and understand what to expect when visiting.

More than likely, appointments are not required for testing and some locations may only work in a first-come-first-serve fashion. In testing centers that are run by governmental agencies, the available tests may be limited to only those STDs that are considered the biggest public health threats in the community.

Upon checking in, you may be asked to complete a questionnaire that will cover your medical history. This will provide the staff with a more clear picture of your overall health status, so you will need to fill this out as accurately as possible.

Although it feels like there is more social stigma when visiting a public STD testing center, the staff is prepared to handle any and all situations that come through the door – and have most likely seen and heard it all – so you should feel comfortable and understood. Sexual health is their specialty at these locations.

When you are ready to be seen, you will be taken to a private area for testing and will have the opportunity to discuss your concerns with the physician or nurse. These tests will be performed the same way they would be in any other environment, whether it’s getting a urine or blood sample, or performing a swab. Rest assured that these public STD testing centers are staffed by medical professionals; your sample will be handled correctly and the lab will run your test correctly.

After testing is complete, you will be able to go back to your day. Your information will be kept private, just as they would at any other medical facility. Results may take longer to come back, however, and you may not even receive a direct contact if your test is negative, so it’s possible you may be required to follow up in order to get definitive results.

If your test results come back positive, a representative from the center will contact you directly. If the public health center offers treatment options, it’s possible to work through them to get any medications or other treatments as needed, or they will be able to provide you with resources to other healthcare facilities.

Pros and Cons of Free Lab Testing for STDs

Pro: Very affordable

Public STD testing centers were designed to be accessible to everyone in the community, so tests are available for free or at low-cost.

Con: Less anonymity

Many public testing locations are centered around STD testing, so it’s not much of a secret as to why you’re there.

Con: Social stigma

It may be difficult for some individuals to simply walk through the doors as some public STD testing centers have gained a negative social reputation within the community.

Pro: Awareness of sexual health status

Getting tested at a public health center means you have the benefit of being aware of what is going on with your body, gaining peace of mind and power over your own wellbeing.