Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections can be stressful. Although it’s an important thing to do for your health — and it can even reduce anxiety because you’ll no longer have to live in uncertainty — the whole process can be daunting. What could make it worse? Not knowing what your bill will be. But you should be able to get an annual STI exam done for free or at low cost, whether you have health insurance or not.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends getting tested annually, but it's not a bad idea to do a screening any time you mingle fluids with someone new. These checkups are officially considered preventative care, because STIs generally don't have symptoms.
Ultimately, these tests help you look out for your health (and your partners'). Taking care of yourself shouldn't make you go broke — but navigating the system to get the best price can be confusing. Luckily, there are resources and agencies that want to help.
Here’s our guide to getting tested without breaking the bank.
You can also go to a Title X clinic in your area. These clinics use government funds to offer access to affordable reproductive heath care to people with lower incomes. To find one one in your area, you can go to Bedsider.org, a database created by Power to Decide. They specifically work with federal, national, state, and local partners to provide the most comprehensive list of reproductive care providers. Although it's traditionally a resource for finding low-cost birth control, many of the providers do preventative testing. You can also use the Office of Population Affairs' clinic finder.
A doctor’s office in your network
Vacheria Tutson, a reproductive rights and health fellow at the National Women’s Law Center, says it's crucial to make the distinction that insurance companies officially cover preventative testing.
“When you’re booking your appointment, call and make sure they appropriately cover what kind of testing you need,” she says. “The ACA coverage is specifically preventative, so what you'll pay depends on how you describe what you need. If you think something wrong, your doctor might not code your visit as preventative. But if you’re getting your annual [check up], it’s covered.”
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)
Many universities do affordable HIV and STI testing at campus health centers. This is important because the CDC reports that of the 20 million new STI cases each year, about half come from people between the ages of 15-24. Most college students fall right in that range. With that said, there are a few schools out there that require students to have insurance, and some charge small fees at each visit, according to Planned Parenthood. In that case, it might be cheaper to go to to a clinic like the ones we mentioned above that offer low-cost care to people without insurance.
These health centers offer services targeted at low-income members of the LGBTQ+ community. The CDC has a list of resources by state that was last updated in 2018, but more pop up every year so you can try Googling "LGBT Clinics near me" for more updated information.