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How Do I Understand STD Test Results?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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When you are reviewing sexually transmitted disease (STD) test results, you might find it easy to understand results such as "positive" or "negative." Positive means the test showed signs of an STD while negative means it did not. You may also note a variety of other terms that seem confusing, however. For example, you might see such words as "equivocal" or "indeterminate" on your result report, both of which mean the test was inconclusive. Additionally, you might see such terms as "reference range," which refers to normal values for positive, negative, or inconclusive tests, or "value," which refers to your specific result.

The easiest part of interpreting STD test results is reading "negative" or "positive" results. If you test positive for a particular disease, it means the test revealed signs of the STD and you may need treatment for it. If the result is negative, the test did not reveal signs of the particular disease. Depending on the tests you took, you might have different test results for each type of STD. For example, you could test positive for gonorrhea but negative for herpes.

It is important to note that some negative and positive STD test results may not prove 100-percent accurate, as some tests have the potential to return false positives or negatives. As such, a test may bear repeating if your doctor believes it could be incorrect. For example, if you receive a positive on a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) test, your doctor may want to repeat the test.

Sometimes terms such as "inconclusive," "equivocal," or "indeterminate" appear on test results. Usually, this means the test failed to yield a definite positive or a definite negative. In such a case, your doctor will likely want to repeat the test to get an accurate result. Sometimes, the results are inaccurate when a test is administered using two different methods. If one reads positive and the other is negative, a repeat test may be in order.

You may also see the term "non-reactive" when you are reviewing STD test results. Non-reactive usually has the same meaning as negative when it comes to this type of test. It means the test did not show signs of the disease in question.

Often, the terms "reference range" and "value" are also included in STD test results. A reference range is a result range that is considered normal for a positive, negative, or inconclusive result. A value is the number that is associated with your test result. For example, if your result is assigned a value of five and the reference range indicates that vales under eight are negative, your result for that test is negative.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By Telsyst — On Dec 14, 2013
@Certlerant: If the prospect of a potential false positive or negative makes you hesitant to get testing, a good place to start might be to do a home std test.

Although home tests do not cover all diseases, the results you get from a home test may give you the confidence needed to go through with further testing or simply give you a little peace of mind.

By Certlerant — On Dec 13, 2013

STD testing is such a stressful, sensitive process. With so many variables, how can you be sure the results are accurate?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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