sti testing

How do I get STI tested in UHS?  Can I keep my parents from finding out?  How much does it cost?

LM: We are so glad you asked! It’s important to make sure that all Harvard students know that they can receive free STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) testing at HUHS. There are a few ways to make this happen. If you are currently experiencing symptoms that you think are related to an STI, please call or go to Urgent Care. If this is a preventive visit, you can either call 617-495-5711 or follow the steps below to make an appointment (it is somewhat click-intensive):

  • Log into the HUHS Patient Portal with your HarvardKey.

  • Choose the “Profile” tab on the left, and check who your Primary Care Clinician is.

  • Choose the “Appointments” tab on the left and then click the “Schedule an Appointment” button.

  • Choose the “STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) Testing option and click continue.

  • Choose the “Continue to schedule your STI Testing with your Primary Care Team” option and click continue.

  • Select your Primary Care Team and click continue.

  • Type a few words into the text box. You can just put “STI testing” if that feels right. Click continue.

  • Check that your information is correct, then click continue.

  • Type your phone number, then click continue.

  • The system will look for available appointment times. Unfortunately, it only checks for appointment availability within your “Primary Care Team,” so you just have to hope that your team has some appointments available!

  • If not, you can try picking a date farther out, or start the process over and try again with a different care team.

AA: 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 immediately 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.  

We do want to note that in the case of sexual violence, HUHS does not provide SANE kits. If you would like more information about SANE kits, please call OSAPR’s hotline at 617-495-9100.

LM: Moving on to your next question, anonymity is a really common concern when people think about getting STI tested at HUHS.

AA: Lab tests are processed by Quest Diagnostics, which is located in the HUHS basement. Confusingly, Quest is a separate company with their own billing system. To protect students’ anonymity since STI testing is a sensitive topic, HUHS has requested that Quest bill HUHS directly for STI testing, rather than billing the student’s insurance.

Because of that, there are a few recommended steps for students to take to ensure anonymity:

  • Remind the lab tech to bill HUHS for the sample;

  • For greater confidence, you can also call your insurance company to request that your Explanation of Benefits is sent to your campus address (this is on the unlikely off-chance that your insurance does get billed due to human error).

LM: 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. We want to end by affirming that there are outside providers that may be more accessible for some individuals. Some outside options for STI (including HIV) testing are:

Fenway Community Health Center

  • (617) 267-0900

  • Located at 1340 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215

Mount Auburn Hospital, Center for Women

  • Located at 330 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

  • (617) 499-5151

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. Thanks for your question!

I’m in a new monogamous sexual relationship. I heard you should get tested regularly for STIs, and I want us to but I’m worried my partner will be offended. How do I navigate this conversation?

AA: Thanks so much for sending in this question. It’s great that you’re wanting to be open and communicate with your partner your desire for the both of you to get tested for STIs (sexually transmitted infections). These conversations can bring up a lot and it’s great to think through in advance how you want to navigate given what you know of you and your partner.

LM: Communication is a really important part of any relationship, and having a conversation about STI testing can be a great way to normalize open and mutual communication in your relationship. You mentioned that this is a new relationship, too, and beginning to have these conversations early can create relational practices that support ongoing dialogue.

AA: The CDC recommends that sexually active individuals get tested between every three months to every year depending on your sexual activity and partners. More detailed testing recommendations can be found here. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, the most common symptom of most STIs is actually no symptoms at all. Thus, getting tested in accordance with the recommendations is worthwhile even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms.

LM: These could be some useful facts to bring up in your conversation with your partner. Since it’s recommended to get tested every so often, even if you don’t have symptoms, this can show your partner that your desire tcalo get STI tested may not stem from any particular concern about them, but rather that it’s a positive healthcare practice.

AA: It’s important to note that each relationship has its own communication style; only you can fully determine how to navigate conversations that might be loaded with your partner. That being said, there are some ways to engage in these conversations that others have found helpful. For instance, as LM mentioned, starting with the medical recommendations can be a low-threshold way to begin a conversation about STI testing with your partner. Generally people find that these conversations are more effective when they are framed using “I” language. The more each one of us can make our relational requests about our own needs rather than about the relationship itself, the more folks tend to be able to engage. When I think about a potential way to do that, it might look like: “I have decided to make STI tested a part of my preventive healthcare routine. I would like to have a conversation about whether this can become a practice in our relationship.”

LM: If you and your partner do decide to get STI tested, we at SL have previously written about getting STI tested at HUHS if you’re interested in finding out what the process looks like. Again, I want to emphasize how productive it can be to have conversations like these right off the bat. Like AA said, it can be helpful to communicate your own needs to your partner, and this can apply not just to STI testing but to the relationship as a whole.

AA:  I want to make sure that all Harvard students know that they can receive free STI testing at HUHS. 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, 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.

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 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 (most phone numbers can be found on the back of your insurance card) and ask that their Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) be sent to their address on campus.

Amanda Ayers
Health Educator

LM
Student

I feel like I should get STI tested but I’m really nervous about the process and about my parents finding out. How does it work and how do I keep my parents from finding out?

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:

Fenway Community Health Center

  • (617) 267-0900

  • Located at 1340 Boylston Street Boston, MA 02215

Mount Auburn Hospital, Center for Women

  • Located at 330 Mount Auburn Street Cambridge, MA 02138

  • (617) 499-5151

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

AG

Student

 

How and where do I get tested for STIs at Harvard?

EXPERT ANSWER:

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for asking about locations for STI testing. There are a couple of options so I’ll categorize them.

At Harvard:

  • STI testing is covered for all Harvard students under the Student Health Fee

  • Call 617-495-5711 to make an appointment OR go to huhs.harvard.edu and log into your patient portal. Make sure to click STI testing as the reason for your appointment

Outside of Harvard (fee-for-service):

  • Planned Parenthood

    • Located at 1055 Commonwealth Avenue Boston, MA 02215

Outside of Harvard (free services):

  • MGH

    • Located at MGH Cox Building, 5th Floor, 55 Fruit Street Boston, MA 02114

  • Project Trust

    • Located at 721 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA, 02118

  • Fenway Community Health Center

    • Located at 1340 Boylston Street Boston, MA 02215

If you ever have any more questions regarding getting tested please stop by our office on the 6th floor of HUHS.

Best,

Amanda Ayers, MPH

Health Educator

Health Promotion & Educatio


STUDENT ANSWER:

First off, props for trying to figure this out! Honestly the hardest part of getting tested is just taking the initiative to go do it. If you’re choosing to have sex, it’s good practice to get tested about once (or more!) a year. Thankfully, at Harvard this doesn’t have to be a huge hassle. If you just google UHS patient portal and log in you can make an appointment with University Health Services online. Under the “Primary Care” tab, select “Sexually Transmitted Infection Testing” and pick a time that works for you.

The test itself may include a genital exam, a saliva swab, and a urine or blood sample. It can definitely be awkward, but try to be as honest as possible with your provider about your sexual habits so they know what to test for. Like Amanda said, STI testing is completely free at UHS through the student health fee, and you’ll usually get your results within a week (check your secure messages on the patient portal!).

UHS doesn’t inform parents about the tests and they won’t show up on your insurance although your parents might get a notice that you had “lab work” done (this is because the testing itself is done through Quest diagnostics and though Harvard asks Quest to bill the college rather than your insurance company, occasionally mistakes do happen).

Stigma against getting help for an STI, worry about seeing someone you know at UHS, and concern about providers not being queer or trans friendly are all incredibly valid barriers to getting tested. Testing looks and feels different for everyone and if you don’t feel comfortable getting tested here at Harvard, as Amanda mentioned, there are definitely other options!

Good luck!

AG

Student