If you’re 18 or older, your medical records are private according to the law. Any information that health staff receive or discuss with you at a clinic is completely confidential and cannot be shared with your parents or people you know without your permission.
Regardless of your age, health care providers, including mental health professionals like counselors, are also bound through ethical practices to keep your health information confidential. The only exception to this is if providers believe you are at risk of serious harm to yourself or others. If you’re concerned about keeping your medical information confidential, it’s best to speak with your doctor before being treated.
Doctors are also required to report cases of some STDs and HIV to the government so the disease can be monitored throughout the U.S. Your identifying information like your name will not be used. They don’t need to know who you are, they only want to keep track of how many people are getting the infection across the country.
Who will know if I get tested for STDs? Generally, medical information is kept confidential between the patient and health care provider.Positive results for some STDs, like HIV or syphilis, may be shared with state or city health departments for tracking purposes, but there are laws preventing health departments from sharing your test results with your family, friends, or employer.
If you use health insurance to get tested, you should consider who else has access to that information (like a parent or partner if you share health insurance). Be sure to ask your health care provider who will know that you got tested and who will know your results, especially if you are using insurance. Ask questions and stay informed.
If you are under 18, there are places where you can get confidential testing without parental permission, meaning your parents don’t need to give permission for you to be there, and they won’t be contacted by the clinic. Your parents won’t even know that you were there. When making your appointment for STD testing, ask about the health center’s privacy policies: Will they call you at home with test results? Will they send a bill to you? Will they send other mail? Every facility works differently – it’s OK to ask.
Acknowledgements: This fact sheet was adapted from ItsYourSexLife.com, a website that provides education about sexual health.