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Sexually Transmitted Disease Testing Misconceptions Threaten the Validity of Self-Reported Testing History


  • Heather R. Royer Ph.D., F.N.P.-B.C.,

    Corresponding author
    • College of Nursing, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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  • Elizabeth C. Falk M.S., W.H.N.P.-B.C.,

    1. University Health and Counseling Services, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater, Wisconsin
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  • Susan M. Heidrich Ph.D., R.N.

    1. School of Nursing, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
    2. Wm.S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Administration Hospital, Madison, Wisconsin
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Correspondence to:

Heather R. Royer, 1921 E. Hartford Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53211. E-mail:



Sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing is fundamental to STD prevention and control. We sought to comprehensively examine young women's beliefs about the STD testing process.

Design and Sample

Descriptive, cross-sectional, survey investigation. Women aged 18–24 (n = 302) drawn from four women's health clinics and one university classroom.


Participants completed the RoTEST, which measures five domains of women's STD testing beliefs and a demographic survey.


Many women believed they would be screened for all STDs when they receive STD testing (40%) and that visual inspection by a provider was a valid method of STD screening for gonorrhea (35%), chlamydia (32%) and HSV (77%). More than a quarter believed that a Pap test screens for gonorrhea (23%) and chlamydia (26%). Twenty-one percent reported that discussing STD testing with a provider is difficult and most reported feeling more comfortable seeking STD testing from an STD specialist rather than a family doctor (79%).


Young women have numerous misconceptions about the STD testing process that may interfere with the validity of their self-reported STD testing history and subsequently undermine public health efforts to improve STD prevention and control. Innovative approaches to educating women about the testing process are needed.