Herpes Diagnosis: How to Get Tested for Herpes
Since most people with genital herpes have few, infrequent or even NO noticeable symptoms, it can be difficult to know whether or not you have genital herpes. The herpes pictures that you might find on the internet are of extremely rare worst cases, and give a false impression of what most people with herpes experience – which is usually NOT noticeable. For the great majority of people with herpes, their symptoms are so mild or infrequent – or not at all – that their herpes is never diagnosed! PLEASE DO NOT ASSUME – that just because you don’t see any sores or feel sick or don’t notice any particular symptoms – that you don’t have herpes or any other STD. You may be very wrong!
And for goodness sake – DO NOT ASSUME that your doctor already tested you for herpes! Most doctors NEVER test their patients for herpes, even when they are testing you for other STD’s. That’s right. Most doctors do NOT include a herpes test for their patients – UNLESS YOU ASK SPECIFICALLY FOR A HERPES BLOOD TEST.
The best way to diagnose herpes when you are not having symptoms is to request a herpes blood test. Or if you are having an active outbreak – then immediately go to the doctor to get a herpes lab culture AND a herpes blood test. You must SPECIFICALLY REQUEST that your doctor give you a herpes blood test and a herpes lab culture – or else your doctor might just do a visual inspection and may easily misdiagnose herpes as something else – such as jock itch, a yeast infection, or rough sex. When your symptoms go away – usually within a few days to a few weeks, you may not even realize that you just experienced a herpes outbreak.
Unfortunately, most doctors still do NOT include a test for herpes during routine STD testing for their patients. This may be because herpes is so common and they don’t consider herpes to be a serious, life-threatening condition.
There is also speculation that some medical plans and insurance providers may discourage doctors from testing for herpes so that they will not have to prescribe potentially expensive drugs to the estimated 50% or likely more of their patients who would potentially test positive for HSV-1 and/or HSV-2.
So unless you SPECIFICALLY ASK your doctor to give you a blood test for herpes, it is unlikely that you or your friends or partners have ever been tested. So start asking specifically for a herpes blood test.
Sometimes your doctor will even push back and tell you that you don’t need a Herpes Blood Test or give you another reason why they don’t want to give you a Herpes Blood Test. This may be because your doctor is not up-to-date and doesn’t know about the newer, very accurate herpes blood tests. If your doctor tells you there are no good herpes blood tests, then they are definitely not up-to-date about herpes and you need to find another doctor or get tested via an independent lab via the links below. And read the rest of this website.
Herpes Lab Cultures
Many doctors and health care professionals are not up-to-date about herpes diagnosis and will tell you that the only way to accurately diagnose whether or not you have the genital herpes virus is by taking a swab from an active herpes sore or lesion and sending it to the lab for a culture test. However, this only works if the patient’s sore is fairly new or else the virus may no longer be active on the skin. If you get a Herpes Lab Culture and it comes out negative, you may still have genital herpes. Because most herpes outbreaks are short and mild, and because most people have few, mild or even NO outbreaks, we highly recommend taking a herpes blood test when no active sores or lesions are present, and in ADDITION to a Herpes Lab Culture when there is a sore present.
Herpes PCR Tests
A PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test can be done on cells or fluid from a sore and is more sensitive than typical lab culture tests. PCR finds the genetic material (DNA) of the HSV virus and can tell the difference between HSV-1 and HSV-2. Although this test may be more expensive than lab cultures, it is definitely more accurate and less likely to result in a false negative or false positive. However, you still need to get tested while you are having an active outbreak, or else the HSV cells may no longer be present on the surface of your skin.
Herpes Blood Tests
Many out-of-date doctors will tell you that there are no reliable blood tests for herpes that can accurately distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2. These doctors *used to* be right. And some of the old, inaccurate blood tests are still out there. But medicine has made great strides, and since 1999, there are several NEW IgG blood tests now available that DO very accurately distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 and are 97-100% ACCURATE, if taken no earlier than 12-16 weeks after your possible exposure to the virus. False positives and false negatives still occur occasionally, but the Western Blot test and PCR tests can now help make sense of conflicting results
Since some doctors and clinics are still using the older, inaccurate blood tests. Always make sure to find out the name of the company and test that your doctor or lab is ordering for herpes blood tests, and make sure it is one of the tests on the “good” list and not one of the tests on the “bad” list.
Click here to see the list of recommended, highly accurate Herpes Blood Tests – Herpes Blood Test Guide from the American Association of Social Health (ASHA.org). Give a copy to your doctor to make sure they are in the know!
Some of the Good Herpes Blood Tests include:
- HerpeSelect 1&2 Differentiation Immunoblot from Focus Diagnostics
- Captia ELISA HSV1 and HSV2 Tests from Trinity Biotech USA
- The Western Blot Test from University of Washington is considered to be the “gold standard” for all herpes blood tests.
- To download the complete list of good herpes blood tests to give to your doctor, go to ASHA HerpesBloodTestGuide
If your doctor sends you to Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp to get a blood test for herpes, make sure the test they order is from this list:
HerpeSelect HSV-2 ELISA: 3640x
HerpeSelect HSV-1 ELISA: 3636x
HSV-1 and HSV-2 together: 6447x (recommended)
Western Blot: 34534 (recommended)
PCR DNA Test for both HSV-1 and HSV-2: 34257X (recommended)
Captia HSV-2 ELISA: 163147
Captia HSV-1 ELISA: 164897
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 together: 164905 (recommended)
Codes may vary by facility; confirm code with lab before ordering.
Old, Innacurate Blood Tests List
Here is a list of some of the old, inaccurate Herpes Blood Tests and their names. Make sure your doctor is NOT using one of these:
– Diasorin, Herpes 1 or 2 IgG Clin-ELISATM, Stillwater, MN
– Zeus, HSV-1 and/or HSV-2 ELISA Test System, Raritan, NJ
– Sigma, Herpes 1-IgG, Herpes 2-IgG, St Louis, MO
– Wampole Labs, HSV-1 IgG ELISA, HSV-2 IgG ELISA, Cranbury, NJ
Herpes Testing Facilities in Northern California
Many Bay Area Cities and Counties have medical clinics that *might* provide STD tests for lower income residents. You might be asked to pay a fee, based on your income and ability to pay. Below is only a partial list of some of these facilities. If you don’t see your city or county health service agency below, please make sure to do your own internet search to find the health care facility closest to you.
Berkeley Free Clinic – They do test for many other STDs, but regarding herpes, their website says they only test for “symptomatic” herpes – so it’s unlikely that they’ll give you a blood test for herpes unless you are also having an active outbreak.
Contra Costa County Health Services – does not mention herpes in their list of STDs that they test for. Please call ahead before you go to make sure that they offer herpes testing.
Marin County Health Services – does not mention herpes in their list of STDs that they test for. Please call ahead before you go to make sure that they offer herpes testing.
Santa Clara County Public Health – does not mention herpes in their list of STDs that they test for. Please call ahead before you go to make sure that they offer herpes testing.
The San Francisco City Clinic: The San Francisco City Clinic no longer offers herpes blood tests to most patients because it is so common. On their website they say: “Blood tests for herpes are no longer routinely offered at City Clinic. Testing is now limited to those with symptoms or other risk after discussion with a clinician.”
Why is it, you may ask, that so many free/low income health clinics are no longer testing for herpes? It’s because herpes is so common, yet causes so few health risks, that it would simply take funds, time and resources away from more serious STDs such as HIV, and other STDs that are curable by simple antibiotics. Since most people with herpes experience few or no symptoms, the stigma of herpes usually causes more problems than the virus itself. Our public and non-profit health clinics have limited funds and genital herpes is a low priority for them because it causes few or no medical problems for the vast majority of people.
Planned Parenthood Confidential Herpes Testing
If you do not have health insurance, you can sometimes get a type-specific herpes blood test done at local public health clinics funded by your city, county or state. Check your local listings for the public health clinic near you. Unfortunately, not all public health clinics do type-specific herpes blood tests, so you might want to call first before making the trip. In many cities, Planned Parenthood also offers inexpensive herpes blood tests or it may be free under some circumstances. Additional donations are always welcome.
Please note that many Planned Parenthood locations only test for HSV-2 and will not test for HSV-1 since most people already have HSV-1. However, HSV-1 is the leading cause of new cases of genital herpes. We highly recommend that you get a type-specific IgG blood test for BOTH HSV-1 and HSV-2, because either can cause genital herpes. If you only get tested for HSV-2 and the results are negative, you may incorrectly assume that you don’t have genital herpes – because you might have genital HSV-1 and they didn’t test you for HSV-1. Also, even if you have HSV-1 orally, you can possibly transmit it you your partner’s genitals via oral sex, even when you have no noticeable symptoms. So please try to get a type-specific IgG blood test for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 at the same time to know your true status.
Private Confidential Herpes Testing Services Online
In most states, you can order your own CONFIDENTIAL blood tests for STDs including herpes by using services from some of the following companies, most of which use Quest Diagnotics or LabCorp to perform the blood draws.
We recommend that you get tested for BOTH HSV-1 and HSV-2 unless you already know that you have HSV-1 and still have your test results to confirm it.
- STDCheck.com* ($10 off your order if you click the link from this page.)
- PersonalLabs.com* (See their comprehensive 11 STD Blood Test)
- STDTestExpress.com (HSV-2 test only)
Most of these services use the HerpeSelect tests from Focus Diagnostics. The Type-Specific HSV-1 and HSV-2 IgG test panels usually cost between $90-$149. This fee includes the laboratory testing, preparation of the order, physician supervision of ordering and interpretation of the results, pre-test counseling, post-test counseling, and any confirmatory testing that may be required. You enter your zip code and it will tell you all the local labs near you which will do the tests. You must sign up for the tests online and your credit card will be charged before you go to the lab. These companies also offer tests for other STD’s which you may or may not want to take. Your results are confidential and are not part of your regular medical records.
Please keep in mind that testing positive for either HSV-1 or HSV-2 via a blood test does not tell you WHERE your infection is located (genital, oral or elsewhere). The only way to know WHERE your infection is located is by noticing when and where you may be having an active outbreak or sores. Many people do not have noticeable symptoms but still carry one or both HSV-1 and HSV-2.
You must WAIT AT LEAST 12-16 WEEKS after you were exposed to herpes, in order to give the virus antibodies enough time to develop in your blood stream. Otherwise the blood tests may not be accurate.
Herpes Diagnosis Links:
Centers for Disease Control – Genital Herpes – CDC Fact Sheet
Western Blot Test – the most accurate herpes blood test – University or Washington Virology Dept.