Let’s be honest here, a lot of expats who have been living here for a while have probably wondered about getting tested at some point. I know, getting tested for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) in beautiful Paree isn’t exactly the most romantic thing ever but it’s what responsible adults do.
The problem is, it’s very difficult to get information in English about getting tested in Paris. Websites about STD testing don’t have an English alternative and most aren’t even that clear in French. As a result, your first experience can be quite daunting because on top of being in a foreign country, you don’t really know what’s going to happen when you get there! But what you do need to know is, STDs are NOT a taboo here in France so don’t be scared that you’ll be the only one there. The French understand how important it is to practice safe sex and do NOT judge each other for getting tested. On the contrary, they have the utmost respect for people who take control of their sexual health!
So, on that note, this blog post is to explain a little bit about how it works and more importantly, why you shouldn’t be afraid to get tested here, French or no French.
I want to get tested but where do I start?
First things first, you need to choose where you want to go. There are a number of centre de dépistage and they are all anonymous. They are also all TOTALLY FREE OF CHARGE and no carte vitale is needed. I would recommend using a Red Cross centre as they have one located right in the middle of Paris (metro: Palais Royale Musee du Louvre) and most of the people working there speak English. Not being able to speak French is NOT a problem. If you don’t speak French, they can, and will, happily ask you the questions in English.
After choosing your centre you can either :
- Call them to make an appointment (they will only ask you for your surname) or
- You can decide to go sans RDV (without an appointment)
- However, sans RDV is only available on Wednesday’s between 3 pm and 6pm.
If you decide to book an appointment you will be seen very quickly, therefore I would definitely recommend booking before. Also, you generally have to book around two weeks in advance so be prepared for a small wait!
What happens when I get there?
When you arrive at the centre you have to go to reception and give your last name and time of your appointment. In return they will give you a card with a number on; congratulations, this is now your new identity! Everything from this point on is anonymous. You will be asked to take a seat until the nurse calls your number out.
The nurse is the first person you see. He or she will ask you questions about your sexual health. Why did you choose to come and get tested, what are you concerned about, have you ever had an STD before, are you taking any medication etc. These questions are normal, they just need to build up a general picture of your sexual health, it’s nothing to be concerned about! It’s also so they can recommend what tests you should take.
When do I see the doctor?
After you have seen the nurse and answered their quick questionnaire, you will be sent back into the waiting room. The doctor will be the next person to call your number and you will follow them into their office. The doctors are very friendly and extremely professional so don’t worry about having to see them! The doctor is simply there to explain to you which tests you are going to have done and how it is going to work, so there aren’t any unwelcome surprises along the way.
The Red Cross centres offer testing for ALL STDs so you will be able to have a full check up if that’s what you want. For your information – chlamydia is only offered automatically to women and men under the age of 25 so if you are over 25 you will have to ask the doctor for the test when you talk to him or her.
What happens during the tests?
After your short chat with the doctor you will go back to see a nurse for your blood test. If you have decided to be tested for non-blood related diseases (e.g. chlamydia) you will have to do a swab test (for women) or a urine test (for men). Funnily enough for women, you do the test yourself, whereas in England it’s the doctor who does it. Actually, for women, it’s much less unnerving when you know that you will simply do it yourself. After your swab test you give the tube (nicely concealed in an envelope) to the smiley receptionist who will then ask you when you are available to come back for the test results.
Test results take one week minimum and you MUST go back to the centre and see the doctor to receive them, whether the results are positive or negative. Your results will be given to you in the same way; the doctor will call out your number and open your results in front of you in their office. They will then explain the results in detail and ask you if you have any questions. Feel free to ask them whatever you want, they are there to help!
And that’s it! The scary oh-my-god-I-won’t-understand getting STD tested in a foreign country is over! And it really wasn’t that bad after all, was it?