If you think you’re getting an anonymous test for sexually-transmitted diseases, you’d better read the fine print because your privacy is probably not protected. Here are five reasons why your STD test is not anonymous.
1. They Know Who You Are
It’s not an anonymous STD test if you give them your name, email address or credit card information. Whether it’s an at-home kit that’s mailed to your house, a visit to a clinic, an appointment with your doctor or even an online testing service, if they know who you are, your test is not anonymous. Online testing labs might lure you to their website with the word anonymous in an advertisement, but that word is soon replaced with words like confidential and private. Your personal information is protected — unless you test positive. Then it’s not protected anymore.
2. The Law Requires Medical Professionals to Report You to the State Health Department If You Test Positive for an STD
Every state has a law that requires medical professionals to report a positive STD test result for chancroid, chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis A, B and C, HIV and syphilis to the state health department. This includes your name, address, date of birth and other personal information. Even if you don’t report that information, health department workers will obtain it if they know who you are. The information they provide varies depending on what state you live in. Federal law then requires state health departments to send the data to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, however they remove your name from that submission. The purpose is to make the government aware of any outbreaks of communicable diseases so they can take steps to prevent an epidemic.
3. Nobody Will Tell You That You’ve Been Reported to the Health Department
Medical professionals are not required to tell you that they are sending your personal information and your STD test results to the state health department. And if they don’t have to tell you, they usually don’t (but if you ask, I’m sure they will). Since the law requires them to report the information, permission and notification aren’t required. Privacy policies have an exception that they must abide by the law, and this is the law.
4. The Health Department Will Come to Your House and Ring Your Doorbell
Once the health department has your personal information, a disease intervention specialist (DIS) will try to find out who your most recent sex partners have been so they can notify them that they might have been exposed to an STD (they won’t use your name if they do the notification). Like any good employee, the DIS has a job to do and aggressively pursues that goal. First, someone might call you on the phone. Or, someone might send you a card in the mail with a request that you go to the state health department to speak to a DIS. If they still can’t get a hold of you, someone might show up at your house — unannounced– ringing the doorbell and asking to speak to you. They will ask for names, phone numbers and even your online screen names so they can try to determine on their own who your sex partners might be.
You don’t have to provide any information, although you have a responsibility to notify your partners. You can do that anonymously using the Anonymous Notification Tool on our website. If you’ve already notified your partners, inform the DIS of this and end the conversation. But remember that one of your sex partners has an STD and probably doesn’t know it, so it’s in everybody’s best interest that you notify your partners, even if it’s anonymously.
5. The Health Department Might Notify Your Spouse Without Your Knowledge or Permission
In some states, the law allows the health department to notify your spouse that you’ve tested positive for an STD — without your knowledge or permission. — and even if you don’t report that information. Any health department that receives federal money from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is required to notify the marriage partner of a person who tests positive for HIV. If you say you’re not married and you are, they will look that information up and notify your spouse.
6. HIPAA Doesn’t Protect Your Privacy With Sexually-Transmitted Diseases
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) contains provisions that protect the disclosure of your personal medical information without your permission. However, in Section 45 CFR 164.512, Uses and disclosures for which an authorization or opportunity to agree or object is not required, the HIPAA privacy rule allows medical professionals to disclose protected health information without authorization to public health officials for the purpose of preventing or controlling diseases. Reporting STD results to the state health department falls under this exemption.
There’s only one way to really get an anonymous STD test that can’t be traced back to you. Just follow the steps we outline in How to Get An Anonymous STD Test. It’s a tried, tested and proven way to remain anonymous, even if you test positive for an STD.