There is no STD test privacy. That’s because most sexually-transmitted diseases are reportable diseases in every state. It means that someone has to submit a report to the health department every time there’s a positive test for an STD. While the laws vary among states, the information that must be provided to the health department often includes:
- Telephone Number
- Social Security Number
- Birth Date
- Test Performed
- Test Results
Depending on the disease for which you test positive, the report might have to be made within 24 hours of receiving the test results.
Privacy Protection Laws
Laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, which usually protects your privacy and prohibits the disclosure of your medical records without your permission, don’t apply to sexually-transmitted diseases. Two exceptions in HIPPA permit disclosure of your personal and medical information to authorities when required by law and when necessary for public health surveillance, investigations and intervention. Both of these exceptions apply to STDs. There is no privacy protection for STD test results.
Laws in every state classify most sexually-transmitted diseases as reportable diseases, requiring that all health care practitioners and laboratories report you, your personal information and your test results to the health department. Because it’s required by law, your medical provider and laboratory don’t have to tell you they’re reporting you, and they don’t need your permission to do so. Other reportable diseases include Anthrax, Cholera, Rabies, Rubella, Plague, Smallpox and Yellow Fever.
There are two primary reasons why you have a lack of privacy with STD tests and the health department wants to know if you have an STD. The first is so it can monitor the spread of contagious diseases, called surveillance. The health department in each state collects data on people who tests positive for reportable diseases and analyzes the data to identify outbreaks in specific areas of the state that might be a concern for the health of the general public. The health department then removes your personal information from the data and forwards it to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. The CDC analyzes data for the entire country and reports statistics on a regular basis.
The second reason is to help control the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, called supervision. State health department investigators contact you and ask you for the names, addresses, phone numbers and other information about your most recent sexual partners. Once they have this information, they notify the individuals that they might have been exposed to an STD, and encourage them to get tested. Your name is not used when the health department contacts your partners. In many states, if your doctor or health care provider knows who your spouse, partner or recent sexual partners are, he can notify them of potential exposure to an STD or HIV without your permission, provided he doesn’t tell them your name.
The health department can use any necessary means to contact you to ascertain who your most recent sexual partners were. In many cases, a representative from the health department might come to your house and ring your doorbell to speak with you and get you to divulge the contact information for your most recent sexual partners. While the health department representative won’t tell someone who answers the door why he wants to speak with you, it’s certainly not the most discreet way to meet with you. The health department, however, is concerned with controlling the spread of the disease, not discretion or your personal privacy issues.
You can prevent this from happening by following the instructions in our free guide to anonymous STD testing and getting an anonymous STD test and potentially treatment over the phone. However, if you test positive for an STD, you have an obligation to notify your recent sexual partners so they can get tested and get treatment, too. For that, we provide an Anonymous Partner Notification service. Enter the email addresses or phone numbers of your recent sexual partners to send them an anonymous email or text message from this website notifying them that they might have been exposed to an STD and should get tested.