Whom to see for an STI?
If you think you have an STD, what kind of doctor do you go to?
Determining when to get tested and whom to see can be confusing. If you think that you might have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI), the more precise term in most cases when referring to a sexually transmitted disease (STD), there are different types of health care providers to choose from. They each have their own benefits and you may choose which one you'd like to pursue based on your own experiences and what you need from a health care provider.
One of the first places that you can try are sexual and reproductive health clinics. Clinics dedicated to sexual and reproductive health are a great place to connect to care. Because they specialize in this field, the team at clinics may be more familiar with a range of identities related to sex, gender, and sexuality which can make explaining concerns about health less burdensome, particularly if you don't identify as heterosexual, cisgender, or monogamous. Many locations offer their services on a sliding-scale, meaning you pay what you can (which is especially useful if you don't have health insurance). You can use the Center for Disease Control’s Get Tested, your local Department of Health website, or search “STI clinics near me” to assess your options. Before heading over, there are a few things to consider. Depending on your location, transportation to a clinic may be a barrier to receiving care. Whether they schedule appointments or only accept walk-ins, wait times are generally longer when services are in high demand. If possible, contact the clinic prior to your visit to receive any suggestions they may have. You may also consider arriving just before opening if they operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you're a student, you might try to make an appointment with a health care provider at your school's health center. These providers are well-versed in the health needs of the student population, are often conveniently located, and usually offer STI testing services. Some schools require a general health fee to be paid before accessing their health care services. If you can't pay the fee, you may not be eligible to receive services depending on the school’s policy. While students enrolled in health insurance through their schools tend to be covered, there may be additional charges if you're covered through the insurance plan of parent, legal guardian, or spouse or not at all. You can contact your insurance company using the phone number on the back your insurance card to learn what costs are covered when visiting your school’s health center. You can also ask the office what their fees are if you're not paying with insurance.
Another resource to try is your primary care provider, the health care professional you see for regular check-ups. If they don't offer a particular service, they may refer you to another medical provider they know and trust. Depending on their concern and taking your preference into consideration, you may be referred to a specialist such as a urologist, gynecologist, or infectious disease specialist. If you have insurance but don't have a primary care provider (or your provider no longer accepts your insurance), you can check your insurance company's provider directory to find another one. Providers covered by your plan are also called “in network.”
While you're visiting a health care provider, why not take the opportunity to learn more about safer sex? Discussing safer sex guidelines with your provider can help you learn ways to reduce your risk of contracting STIs. Knowledge can help enhance enjoyment by reducing anxiety. If you’re feeling too shy to ask in-person, another valuable resource is the Go Ask Alice! Sexual and Reproductive Health archives, which has many, many related Q&As.
Originally published Jan 31, 1997
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