AA: Thank you so much for sending in your question. Wanting to keep anonymity is a really common concern when people think about getting STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) tested at HUHS. There are many ways to ensure that no one finds out that you’ve received STI testing at school.
AG: Yes definitely! STI testing is safe, easy and important and the CDC generally recommends that if you are engaging in sexual activity (especially with new partners) that you get tested between every three months and a year depending on your sexual practices. The most common symptom of STIs is actually no symptoms at all (I know, yikes) so it’s definitely worth getting testing even if you don’t think anything is abnormal. So good on you for thinking about it and trying to learn more about getting tested here at Harvard!
AA: I want to make sure that all Harvard students know that they can receive free STI testing at HUHS. As AG mentioned getting STI testing at HUHS is very easy. You can schedule a STI test online via the HUHS patient portal, you don’t even need to call. First head the HUHS website and log into your patient portal. Once you are logged in fully, click on “appointments” and then “schedule an appointment”. When the next choices appear you’ll need to select Primary Care and choose the location option that corresponds to your PCP's name and then type in STI testing and complete the rest of the form. Appointment time options will pop up and you will be able to choose the time that is best for you.
AG: When you go in, you’ll meet with a clinician and they may ask you about your specific concerns and sexual practices. This is just so they can get a sense of what to test you for so try to be honest. Then, based on this, they’ll take either a blood or urine sample and do an exam of the possibly affected area. Also, it’s worth mentioning here that tests are often unable to detect STIs directly after a sexual encounter. If there’s one specific sexual experience you think might have exposed you to an STI then you should wait two weeks before getting tested so that the test is actually accurate.
AA: If the clinician orders a test that requires a blood sample they will most likely send you to Quest Diagnostics which is in the basement of HUHS. Since Quest is a separate company, who does their own billing, it is important for you to remind them to bill HUHS for this blood sample. HUHS pays for all student STI testing, including the any tests done through a blood draw. Sometimes, but rarely, there is a small margin of error as billing is done by humans. If a bill is sent to your insurance it will generally just say “lab test” and not the specific type of test. If this is still of concern to you we recommend that students call their insurance company's (most phone numbers can be found on the back of your insurance card) and ask that their Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) get sent to their address on campus.
AG: The tests may take up to a week to be completed and then you will get the result over your HUHS secure messages. If you test positive for an STI then they will follow-up with you for next steps about treatment options. I just want to end by affirming that there are outside providers that may be more accessible for some individuals. Some outside options are:
Located at 1340 Boylston Street Boston, MA 02215
Located at 330 Mount Auburn Street Cambridge, MA 02138
AA: We know that STI testing can seem daunting but it’s a really great thing to practice regularly. If have further questions don’t hesitate to contact us or HUHS.
Amanda Ayers MPH
Office of Health Promotion and Education