Getting tested for herpes can be a pain... in the finger

A new, cheap blood test lets you find out if you have herpes with the prick of a finger.

About 1 in 6 adults in the U.S. has the herpes virus, and about 776,000 more get it each year. How can you be sure you’re not one of them? Get tested.

Getting tested, old school

The old-school options for herpes testing are swab tests and blood tests. They each have pros and cons.

  • Swab test. If you have a sore that may be caused by herpes, swab tests are highly accurate. A health care provider puts a cotton swab on the sore and sends it to a lab. Results are usually available within 5 days. If the sore is small, or has already started to heal over, or you don’t have a sore at all, a swab test may not work.

  • Blood test. The most accurate kind of blood test for herpes looks for a reaction against herpes called an IgG antibody. A health care provider takes blood from your arm and sends it to a lab. Results are usually available within 5 days. A blood test can tell you if you have the virus even if you’ve never had a sore, but it may not be accurate if you were exposed to the virus less than 3 months ago.

Waiting for lab results sucks, and both of these types of tests can be expensive if you’re uninsured or your insurance doesn’t cover them.

Getting tested, new school

There’s a new testing option available in some places that uses only a finger prick and is a lot cheaper. The finger-tests are made by a company called Theranos. They sell a test for herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) for around $9.00 and for HSV-2 for around $13.00.

Theranos parters with drug stores and health centers to give test results within hours. Right now, their herpes tests are available at Walgreens in Arizona and test centers in Pennsylvania and California. There are new locations in the works, so check the link to see if there’s a new one near you.

After the test

While there isn’t a cure for herpes—yet—there are treatments that help reduce outbreaks. There’s no shame in having such a common virus, and knowing you do means you can manage it and still live a healthy, happy life.

If you or someone in your life tests positive, The STD Project has some great resources for people dealing with an STI. And if you know someone who’s living with herpes, here are some tips for supporting them.

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