3 Cheap (or Free) Ways to Get Screened for Sexually Transmitted Infections

Shot of a doctor meeting with his young female patient
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Wouldn’t it be nice if we could hire a stand-in for the boring or uncomfortable parts of being an adult?

I’d love to send a doppelgänger in my place for haircuts, dental visits and yearly checkups at my doctor.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. You pretty much have to show up and bring your necessary body parts with you.

Most of us know the importance of yearly mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, prostate exams and other medical tests that involve doctors getting into our personal space.

But there’s another category of tests many adults should have yearly or as lifestyle changes warrant: screening for sexually transmitted infections.

Common STIs like gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia are on the rise. More than two million new cases were reported in 2016, the highest number of cases ever reported in the U.S.

If you’re not sure whether or not you need STI (also known as STD) screening, check the testing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Don’t assume that you don’t need to be screened if you aren’t sexually active. The CDC recommends “all adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV” because HIV can also be spread through non-sexual contact.

Where to Get Free STI Testing

Many health insurance plans cover the cost of STI screening. If yours doesn’t, here are three ways to get screened.

1. Medicare and Medicaid

If you qualify for Medicare Part B, you’re eligible for free STI screening once every 12 months and at certain times during pregnancy.

Medicare also covers up to two private, face-to-face counseling sessions with at-risk sexually active adolescents and adults, if referred by a physician.

Medicaid coverage varies by state.

2. Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood locations around the country offer STI screening services on a sliding fee scale, based on your income, household size and other variables.

Find a health center near you and call for details.

3. Your Local Wellness Clinic or Health Department

Search the CDC’s online database of testing centers to find a location near you.

What to Know Before You Go

“Routine STI testing is usually limited to chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis, with genital herpes and the parasite trichomoniasis only tested for if you come in with symptoms and human papillomavirus (HPV) tested for during your routine pap smear (there’s no screening test for men),” explains Bustle’s sexual health writer Emma Kaywin.

If there’s a particular STI test you want that’s not part of the standard panel, speak up and let the clinician know.

If you’ve never had an STI screening before, the American Sexual Health Association has an overview of what to expect for each type of test.

Lots of people are nervous before STI screenings and that’s perfectly normal.

“The idea of getting tested may seem scary, but try to chill out,” recommends Planned Parenthood. “Most common STDs can be easily cured with medicine. And STDs that can’t be cured often have treatments to help you with symptoms and to lower your chances of giving the STD to anyone else. So the sooner you know you have an STD, the faster you can start taking care of yourself and your partner(s).”

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She believes sex-positive advocacy saves lives.