If you go to your doctor’s office and ask for the “full work-up” STD screening, did you know that herpes is not included? With 1 in 4 people in the US diagnosed with herpes, wouldn’t it be included in any STD screening? No, and here’s why…
Herpes testing is highly unreliable unless you have visible sores that a doctor can swab. This is tricky, however, because many people with herpes have never exhibited any symptoms. Blood tests look for herpes antibodies, but this only shows if you have ever been exposed to the virus. Because of this, there are many false positive results. The stigma and shame from a genital herpes infection can be worse than the disease itself, which is why the CDC does not recommend testing on people who do not have any symptoms.
However, there are some extenuating circumstances that would warrant herpes testing. If you have (or have had) a sex partner with genital herpes, have herpes symptoms, or if you are pregnant and have a partner with genital herpes. It is especially important to be tested for herpes if you are pregnant because this can be life-threatening for the baby.
Even if you have visible sores, the swab results are only 50% to 90% accurate. As many as half of these results come back false negative because not enough fluid from the sore was obtained for the sample. Because of these unreliable testing options, the most common way for doctors to diagnose it is by simply examining your symptoms.