Background: Sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing is a fundamental to reducing STDs. Although general barriers to STD testing have been identified, specific barriers and misconceptions about the testing process are unknown.
Objectives: To examine young women’s beliefs about the barriers to STD testing and to assess their knowledge of the testing process.
Methods: 302 women, aged 18-24, were recruited from 4 women’s health clinics (n = 201) and 1 university class (n = 101). The women completed a measure of STD Testing beliefs (RoTEST) that consisted of 10 items to assess beliefs about the barriers to STD testing and 11 items to assess the accuracy of women’s knowledge of the testing process.
Results: The most common barriers to STD testing among women were: receiving care from a male provider (88%, n = 266) or a family doctor rather than an STD specialist (79%, n = 239), anxiety about testing (62%, n = 188), and having STD test results in their medical records (31%, n = 94). A number of misconceptions about the STD testing process were identified. Forty percent of respondents (n = 120) expect to be tested for all of the following STDs (including Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Trichomoniasis, Syphilis, HPV, HSV Hepatitis B and HIV) when they receive STD testing. A number of young women believed that a provider could diagnose STDs based solely on visual inspection of the genital area: HSV (77%, n = 233), Gonorrhea (35%, n = 106), and Chlamydia (32%, n = 95).
Conclusions: These findings suggest that women experience a number of barriers to STD testing and have misconceptions about the STD testing process.
Implications for Programs, Policy, and/or Research: Providers should not assume that women understand the testing process. Discussing with women their beliefs and concerns about STD testing can help providers tailor education.