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Should I go to the STD free clinic or my doctor for STD testing and treatment?

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Updated February 03, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Should I go to the STD free clinic or my doctor for STD testing and treatment?
It can be frightening worrying that you might have a sexually transmitted disease. Just the thought of seeking out STD testing and treatment can make some people want to hide under the bed. But finding STD treatment shouldn't be scary. Even if you don't feel comfortable talking about sex with your primary care doctor, you can always visit an STD free clinic.
Answer: There are pros and cons to both options for STD testing and treatment. Whether you choose to go to your doctor or an STD free clinic could depend on a number of factors including:
  • If you have a regular physician

  • Your insurance coverage

  • Whether you are comfortable talking to your doctor about sex

  • If your doctor is comfortable dealing with sexual issues in his or her clinical practice.

  • The laboratory options your physician has available for STD testing

Some advantages to going to your regular doctor for STD testing and treatment include:

  • Working with a physician who is familiar with you.

  • Easy access to your medical records making it simpler to integrate STD testing and treatment with the rest of your medical care including potential medication interactions or allergies.

  • Convenience.

  • Worries about being stigmatized by visiting a STD free clinic.

On the other hand, depending on how comprehensive your insurance coverage is, visiting your doctor for STD treatment and testing can be quite expensive. Not only might you have to pay a co-pay, but not all insurance covers preventative screening if you don't have symptoms. Your doctor might also not have access to some of the more convenient urine tests for certain STDs, or he might not realize they are available.

Some advantages to visiting an STD free clinic for testing and treatment include:

  • Access to a wider range of STD testing options than are available in many private medical offices.

  • Affordability

  • Medical providers who specialize in STDs and are up to date on current STD treatment regimens.

  • A greater probability that some form of rapid testing will be available so that you can be treated with greater speed.

  • Doctors who are comfortable dealing with sexual issues, and who will not let an STD diagnosis affect your care.
    Although no doctor should ever do this, it does sometimes happen. Doctors can be just as ignorant about STDs as laypeople, and have been known to make it quite difficult for people to receive proper treatment in their offices after a highly stigmatized diagnosis. It doesn't happen often, and it is usually illegal, but that doesn't get the patient any better care. This sort of discrimination is less likely to occur in an STD free clinic that specializes in sexual health care

The main disadvantage of visiting an STD free clinic is usually inconvenience. STD free clinics don't always keep the most convenient hours, and they may have very long waits. Before simply dropping in, you should always check with your local STD free clinic to see if it is possible to make an appointment and ask what if any information you need to bring with you. It's also important to check their hours. STD free clinics often only see patients on a limited schedule.

Whether you're looking for regular, preventative STD screening, or testing and treatment because you have symptoms, both your local STD free clinic and your regular doctor can be great options. Which option is right for you will vary depending on the situation, but the important thing is that you get good care.

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