How to Get Tested for Herpes
Since most people with genital herpes have few, infrequent or even NO noticeable symptoms most of the time, herpes diagnosis can be almost impossible to do without a herpes blood test or PCR test. However, many doctors are very out-of-date about herpes tests. On this page, we’ll tell you exactly how to get tested for herpes, and which tests are most accurate or least accurate.
Never just 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. A herpes blood test is NOT INCLUDED in the Standard STD Panels. Most doctors will NOT test you for herpes – UNLESS YOU ASK SPECIFICALLY FOR A HERPES BLOOD TEST. If you aren’t sure whether or not your doctor tested you for herpes last time, ASK them for a copy of all of your last STD test results. If you don’t see a blood test result for both HSV-1 and HSV-2, then you were not tested. The majority of people have NEVER been tested for herpes and don’t know they have it.
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.
Why don’t most doctors test their patients for herpes?
There are many reasons why many doctors don’t test their patients for herpes.
- Herpes is so common and they don’t consider herpes to be a serious, life-threatening condition.
- Many doctors are worried that their patients will over-react emotionally to a herpes diagnosis and they don’t know how to deal with that. They may believe that their patients are “better off not knowing that they have herpes” because it causes so few problems or symptoms for the majority of people. The emotional reaction is usually worse than any symptoms.
- 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. And 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. Read on for more info.
Visual Diagnosis of Herpes – Least Accurate
Visual diagnosis is the least accurate way to determine whether or not you have 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 NOTHING most of the time. 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!
Herpes Lab Cultures – Only Accurate Some of the Time
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 – Very Accurate
A PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test can be done on cells or fluid from an active 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 – Very Accurate – Can be done even when symptoms are not present
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. Please note that despite the relatively high accuracy of these blood tests, false positives and false negatives do occur. If you have conflicting results on 2 different herpes blood tests, you should probably order the Western Blot herpes blood test – see below.
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.
ASHA Herpes Blood Test Guide
The American Social Health Association (ASHA.org) published a list of the most accurate herpes blood tests. 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 the 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
Western Blot: 34534
Captia HSV-2 ELISA: 163147
Captia HSV-1 ELISA: 164897
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 together: 164905
Codes may vary by facility; confirm code with lab before ordering.
Old, Inaccurate Herpes Blood Tests
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
The Most Accurate Herpes Blood Test – The Western Blot
The Western Blot Test is the gold standard for herpes blood tests. 99% accurate, and it can detect both HSV-1 and HSV-2. To order, contact the University of Washington Virology Dept.
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.
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 Diagnostics or LabCorp to perform the blood draws.
- STDCheck.com* (possible discount on your order if you click the link from this page.)
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. Getting tested for multiple STD’s may cost up to $200. 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 STDs that you may or may not want to take. Your results are confidential and are not part of your regular medical records.
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 bloodstream. Otherwise, the blood tests may not be accurate.
Herpes Diagnosis Links:
American Social Health Association (ASHA) – Herpes Resource Center
ASHA Herpes Blood Test Guide PDF
ASHA Herpes Testing Toolkit PDF
Centers for Disease Control – Genital Herpes – CDC Fact Sheet
Western Blot Test – the most accurate herpes blood test – University or Washington Virology Dept.
For more info on good and bad herpes blood tests, please read this excerpt from the Ebook, “The Good News About The Bad News” by Herpes Expert, Terri Warren, RN.