If you've been a little laissez-faire about your sexual health in the past but decided that 2018 is the year you take it seriously, then, first of all, congrats! It's never too late to start developing good sexual health habits. But if you're uninsured or underinsured, you may be feeling a little lost about where or how to begin. These six free places to get STD tests this year are a great way to start.
General CDC guidelines suggest that you should be screened once a year, but it's perfectly reasonable to want to get tested after fluid-bonding with any new partner. (Or beforehand, if you want to go get tested together!) Most sexually transmitted infections, STIs, are asymptomatic in the early stages, so it's difficult to know whether something is wrong right away (the term "STD" refers to when there are symptoms) . That's why screening is a routine part of preventative care, although the stigma historically associated with risky sex and STIs would have us believing otherwise. Since there's no one test for every kind of STI, it's important to tell your healthcare provider exactly what kind of sex you're having (eg., penetrative, oral, anal) and with whom (ie., what kinds of anatomy are in play). Sharing the mechanics of your sex ensures that you're being tested for the STIs you're most at risk for, while eliminating tests that may be unnecessary. Here's where you can get tested for free.
1. Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood has chapters all over the United States and they offer free or low-cost healthcare, depending on your age, income, and insurance status. They're pretty easy to find, call for appointments, or even get walk-in screenings at. Check out the website for a wealth of information on STIs, the screening process, locations, and free testing qualifications.
2. AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)
Another global organization with wellness centers where you can get free screenings is the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). In addition to healthcare centers all over the United States where you can get tested for free, they also have mobile HIV screening trucks and work in partnership with a chain of thrift stores called Out of the Closet, where you can get free HIV screenings while you shop or donate!
3. Independent Local Clinics
The easiest way to get free screenings is to rely on your local clinics. Some major hospitals have walk-in clinic hours, but plenty of standalone free clinics exist, too. A quick google search for free clinics in your area should give you a good idea of where to start, or you can check out the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics website to look for facilities in your area. Small local clinics don't always have the most detailed websites, so this option may involve some calling around to double-check that the clinic you want to visit offers screenings as part of their services and that you qualify for free care. But once you lock in on a location that works for you, you'll always have it in your back pocket!
The CDC's Get Tested database also lets you search for free clinic options by location, and will narrow your scope specifically to STI testing.
4. Local Health Department
Every state has a Department of Health with federal funding set aside for subsidized STI screenings. If you don't have a Planned Parenthood or an independent nonprofit clinic close by, check to see if there's a Health Department outpost near you.
5. Your College Health Center
Many college and university health centers offer free or low-cost STI screenings for students, even if you aren't on a student insurance plan. Give them a call and see what your options are.
6. LGBTQ+ Clinics
If you identify as LGBTQ+, your area may have clinics offering screening services just for you! LGBTQ+ clinics are there specifically to address the needs of low-income queers and they're geared toward understanding (and helping you understand) the differences between queer healthcare and straight healthcare.
The CDC has a brief and pretty outdated list of LGBT clinics by state, but more and more LGBT clinics are popping up in underserved communities outside of major metropolitan areas on the coasts. Try searching for "LGBT clinics" + the nearest big city, and if that doesn't turn up anything, try searching by state.
If you're feeling nervous about getting tested, ask a friend, partner, or someone close to you to come along with you — and you can even do it together. Here's to being sexually healthy 2018.