STD Testing – Is It Confidential?

One of the greatest barriers to getting STD testing is the fear that someone will find out that you a) got tested and b) that you have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection.   So it’s important to know – is STD testing confidential?  The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

Anonymous vs. Confidential

Anonymous testing means that no one besides you will have access to your test results.  In anonymous testing you don’t even have to give your real name in order to get tested.  You may be given a number or other type of identifier that you use to get your results.

You won’t have to provide any type of demographic information or identifying information such as your address or phone number.  And no medical record will be created with your name.

Confidential testing means that your privacy is protected.  However, your name and contact information will be requested by the testing center.  They will not, however, share your medical information with any other sources without your permission.  But this can become part of your medical record and our insurance may be notified.  This is important when it comes to medical coverage.

With confidential testing there will be data stored electronically that connects your name with test results.  While the testing center will not be allowed to release information without your consent, it’s important to be aware that if their data system is compromised your health information could get into the wrong hands.

Mandatory Reporting

Another concern with STD testing is reporting.  For some diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, syphilis, and HIV testing agencies are required to report results to the state.  When they are reported, your identifying information is removed so that they can use the information to produce statistics.

Partner Notification

When you have an STD test come up positive, you may be asked to participate in partner notification.  You’ll be asked to list any partners who have possibly been at risk of transmission of the disease from you.

Typically, the health department will send a staff person to notify partners of their potential exposure to a disease. However, they won’t share your name.  They will just let that person know that they need to be tested.

Do Your Homework

Every testing center has its own policies and procedures around STD testing and reporting.  It’s up to the patient to get the facts before undergoing testing.  If you prefer to have anonymous testing, make sure to inquire and ask for a written policy to verify that your test is anonymous.

In the United States you’ll want to make sure that confidential testing is bound by HIPAA regulations.  That’s the list of regulations that you receive at each and every medical appointment.

Different testing centers may have less privacy and if you get tested with your own physician you need to make sure and ask about privacy as they will submit information to your health insurance.

When it comes to privacy, the most important thing to remember is that the responsibility falls on you to determine what the specific test center’s policies are before you give any personal information.

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