Ten Common Excuses for Not Getting Regular STD Tests

People avoid regular STD screening for a number of reasons. Many of those reasons are based on misconceptions about STD testing and treatment or a lack of understanding of how doctors approach sexual health. Others are based on understandable fears about stigma. However, in most cases, regular testing is still a good idea.

Some common excuses people give for not getting regular STD tests include:

I'd Know if I Had an STD

Woman hugging another woman
Bartomeu Amengua / Getty Images

A lot of people assume that there's no need for regular STD testing, because they'd know if they had an STD. Unfortunately, it simply isn't true. The vast majority of STDs are asymptomatic. People may not know they have them for years.

What's the big deal, then? Well, even without symptoms, STDs can lead to long-term health problems. Depending on the disease in question, that can range from fertility problems to difficulties with whole-body health.

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I Don't Want to Know if I Have an STD


Another reason that people don't get screened for STDs is that they'd simply rather not know if they had an STD. They think that knowing something is wrong would be far worse than just wondering and choose not to get tested.

However, for a lot of people, uncertainty is actually a lot more stressful than just getting an STD diagnosis. Once you've been diagnosed, you can access treatment. Most STDs are treatable with medication, if not always curable, and diagnosis is the first step to improving your sexual health. 

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There's No Way My Partner Has an STD

Couple snuggling on rocks
Couple snuggling on rocks. Marcus Mok/Asia Images/Getty Images

People assume that they'd be able to tell if their partner had an STD. They may also think that STDs don't happen to certain types of people. However, STDs are equal opportunity. They affect those who are old and young, rich and poor, straight and gay.

There's no way to tell by looking at someone if they have an STD. You can't judge based on their education or their pocketbook. The only way to accurately assess a partner's STD risk is to talk to them about past behavior -- or to go get screened before having sex.

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I Don't Want To Have To Tell My Partner if I'm Infected

Romantic couple, sitting on a bench.. Juanmonino/E+/Getty Images

One of the scariest things about getting screened for STDs is the thought that you'd then have to sit down with your partner and talk to them about it. When they get a positive diagnosis, some people first response is anger at whomever they believe infected them. Others worry about whether they brought the infection into a relationship and could have infected their partner... who might be angry at them.

It is certainly hard to tell your sexual partner(s) that you've been diagnosed with an STD, but it's not easier for them to find out through their own diagnosis and wonder why you didn't tell them. That's true even if the reason you didn't tell them is that you didn't know.

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My Doctor Didn't Ask if I Wanted an STD Test

Woman with Doctor in HOspital. Terry Vine/Blend Images/Getty Images

Speaking of people not knowing, a quite reasonable excuse for not STD testing is that people's doctors don't ask them if they want STD tests! It's unfortunate that, far too often, these tests are things that people need to ask for instead of having offered to them. Unfortunately, many doctors aren't any more proactive about sexual health than their patients. That doesn't mean the tests aren't useful or important. It just means that doctors often aren't particularly well trained about sex and STDs.

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I'm Too Embarrassed to Let a Doctor See/Touch Me "Down There"!

Urine Test Cup
Urine Test Cup. Ann Cutting/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Feelings of embarrassment around intimate examinations aren't uncommon. It helps to know that doctors aren't thinking of these exams as anything other than another day's work. However, if you absolutely can't get past your discomfort, there are STD testing options that don't require a physical exam. Urine and blood tests are available for most of the common STDs.

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Testing is Too Expensive

Chlamydia screening smear test

Testing at your doctor's office can be expensive, and it's not always covered by insurance. However, many city public health departments run free STD clinics where STD testing is offered for no (or only a minimal) charge. Free STD testing is also offered at a number of GLBTQ focused health centers and some community health centers. In addition, Planned Parenthood offers STD testing where the fees are pegged to patient income.

If you're worried about the cost of testing, it's worth letting your fingers do the walking and making some calls to see what options are available. There's a good possibility that it's going to be less expensive than you think.

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I Don't Know How to Ask for Testing

Doctor with male patient. Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images

This is one of the reasons for missing out on testing that I have the most empathy for. Fortunately, it's also one of the ones that I find it easiest to help with. There are full instructions on asking for testing linked from the title, but the basics are simple. All you have to do is tell your doctor that you're interested in being tested for STDs... and then give them a list of those STDs you want to be tested for. Most of the time, it's as simple as that.

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My Doctor Would Let Me Know if Something Were Really Wrong

Cultura RM/Zero Creatives / Collection Mix: Subjects / Getty Images

This is less of an excuse and more of a misunderstanding. In an ideal world doctors would make STD screening a regular part of clinical care. Then the burden of seeking testing would be off patients and with doctors.

Unfortunately, STD testing isn't a part of most doctor's standard of care. It's not included as a regular part of yearly exams unless you go to someone who really prioritizes sexual health. Even many gynecologists don't provide STD testing unless their clients ask for it. I'm always surprised and impressed when I find the ones who do.

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I Don't Need STD Tests, I Get an Annual Pap Smear

Comedian Kathy Griffin gets a public pap smear on camera in order to promote women's health awareness at the Palomar Hotel on April 16, 2010 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images). Photo: Angela Weiss/Getty Images

The fact that many people don't realize that Pap smears aren't STD tests is an enormous pet peeve of mine. Mind you, I don't blame them. I blame their doctors. Many women have never had the purpose of a Pap smear clearly explained to them. They've just been told they're necessary.

That said, the fact that Pap smears are starting later and happening less often may also be causing a decline in STD testing. However, that's not because Pap smears are STD tests. It's because they're often done at the same time.


Ursu A, Sen A, Ruffin M. Impact of Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines on Screening for Chlamydia. Ann Fam Med. 2015 Jul;13(4):361-3. doi: 10.1370/afm.1811.

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