Tracey Powell, STD Test Expert

Tracey PowellTracey Powell is the founder and CEO of DTC MD, and has held the same position with his company Home Access Health Corporation (HAHC). After graduating from Western Illinois University with a degree in marketing, Mr. Powell went on to found Home Access Health Corporation in 1993, which offers the only FDA-approved at-home tests for HIV and Hepatitis C testing. In 2008, he founded DTC MD, named for Direct-to-Consumer Medical Diagnostics, and the parent company of his latest venture, getSTDtested.com which he founded in May of 2009. According to Mr. Powell, getSTDtested.com is America’s leading online STD testing clinic that sets the Gold Standard for STD awareness and testing. GetSTDtested.com is committed to de-stigmatizing STDs and providing people peace of mind by helping them gauge their sexual health and get real help from in-house medical doctors and certified STD counselors that are offered through our partnership with the American Social Health Association (ASHA).

While there are no specific certifications in the field of STD testing, Mr. Powell has been recognized as a thought leader on sexual health diagnostics and infection prevention through his ongoing commitment to bringing technology and innovation to the field of STD testing and advocating for tester anonymity. After founding Home Access Health Corporation, the company released the first and only FDA-approved at-home tests for HIV and Hepatitis C. The HAHC lab operated under FDA and Clinical Laboratory Improvements Amendments (CLIA) regulations, and was certified by the College of American Pathologists (CAP).

In 2007, Mr. Powell was asked to testify in front of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS) as an advocate for customer confidentiality when testing for STDs. This testimony was part of the government’s dialogue on creating a national health information network. With HAHC and now with getSTDtested.com, Mr. Powell has consistently employed certified and licensed professionals for critical roles such as STD pre-test and post-test counseling and medical review functions.

How did you get started in the field of STD testing?
In the late 1980s, I created an interactive voice response (IVR) solution for a large union health clinic to allow employees to receive their lab test results securely via the telephone using a computer-generated confidential code number. At the same time, HIV was a major topic in this country. There was a desperate need in the US because people with HIV were literally dying of embarrassment rather than getting HIV tested. I decided to take the IVR and confidential code capability and apply it to HIV testing. Delivering a testing solution that offered complete anonymity caused hundreds of thousands to take action and get tested and get treatment.

More recently, I realized that while people were overwhelmingly moving to the Internet for their health information and services, online STD testing represented a miniscule fraction of the diagnostic testing market. Importantly, people often need a range of STD tests, as some people need options that include local STD testing facilities or even at-home testing. I also saw the need to bring a significant level of trust to an online STD clinic while also bringing in the 21st century convenience and privacy to the STD testing experience. With getSTDtested.com I was able to do this, building on my STD testing experience to create a trusted online experience for those who need to get STD tested, and market that capability in creative ways to connect with our customers.

Why is STD testing important?
Sexual contact is a part of everyday life, and your sexual health is something that should always be maintained – for both yourself and others. Many STDs are on the rise, even epidemic, in the US (and other countries); in the US there are more than 19 million new STD cases annually and there are more than 50 million people infected with genital herpes. Many STDs are easily curable and others are treatable -- if you get tested and know your status.

Many people feel that, since they are not experiencing any symptoms of an STD, they are not at risk – this is a common misconception. Some may not experience symptoms of certain STDs, but can still be infected. By getting STD tested, you can know your sexual health and, in the case of a positive result, get treatment to avoid potentially long-term and serious complications. For instance, many people infected with chlamydia never experience any symptoms and, if left untreated, it can inflict serious reproductive and other health problems. And just as important, it is commonly those that have been recently infected with an STD (and don’t know it) that cause the most spread of that STD through continued unprotected sexual contact.

When should a person be tested for an STD?
Any unprotected sexual contact can put you at risk for STDs when it is with a partner who is not absolutely known to be monogamous and STD-free. Even monogamous couples may consider STD testing due to unknown STD status of previous partners. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all sexually active adults test for STDs once every year, specifically for HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea. Our expert public health advisory group at getSTDtested.com also recommends herpes testing on an annual basis (both Herpes 1 and Herpes 2). Of course, those with significant risk factors are encouraged to test more frequently.

For men having sex with men, the CDC recommends also adding an annual test for syphilis and hepatitis B. Those who have been vaccinated for hepatits B do not need to test for this infection. Hepatitis C testing is recommended for intravenous drug users and those who received transfusions prior to 1992.

Another important point regarding when to test is related to what is termed the “window period.” STDs may have a differing period of time after exposure (between days and months) when they will be accurately reflected in an STD test, so one cannot “immediately” get an STD test after a potential exposure. And it is recommended that some who actually test negative (i.e., indication of no STD infection) conduct re-testing to assure that the window period issue was covered.

If a person finds out that he/she has contracted a sexually transmitted disease, how often should he/she be retested following treatment?
Chlamydia and gonorrhea will require regular re-testing even in the case where someone has tested positive and then cured the infection with antibiotics, because a person can be re-infected. Experts recommend being tested after future unprotectected sexual contact with a partner of which you may be unsure. At the least, we recommend following the CDC recommendation to be STD tested once every year to maintain your sexual health. Some individuals know that they regularly engage in higher risk sexual behavior, and these individuals should conduct STD testing on a more frequent basis.

Keep in mind that for some of these infections, notably HIV, herpes 1, herpes 2, syphilis and hepatitis C, once someone has tested positive the first time, there is no need to test again as the tests will always confirm positive status even as the person undergoes treatment for any one of these STDs. Any ongoing testing will relate to treatment and management, in close review with a medical professional.

Are there any preparatory steps one should take prior to having an STD test conducted?
Before being tested for STDs, it is always important to gauge your own sexual health and determine which tests are most appropriate to take. For instance, all college students are now required to be vaccinated for hepatitis B – if you have ever been vaccinated, there is no need to include hepatitis B in your test order. In addition, those who already know they have a positive test result that will show up positive again, including HIV, herpes, or syphilis, should not include these in their test order. At the same time, when assessing which tests to include, one must be honest about risks and sexual behavior to make sure not to exclude important tests. Our website offers a wealth of information on STD symptoms and treatment options, and we also have STD experts on call to help you determine which tests are most suitable for your situation.

Approximately how long does it take for a person to receive results from an STD test?
At getSTDtested.com, we are committed to providing the most convenient and quick testing process. After purchasing your STD tests on our website, you can get tested at a local STD testing center the very same day (or for some tests, you can choose to have an at-home test kit delivered to you). Although the length of time it takes to receive results can differ based on the tests chosen, results are normally received within two to three business days.

What is the most significant piece of advice you can offer to people who wish to get tested for an STD?
The best advice I can give anyone who is thinking of being tested for STDs is to not be nervous or feel ashamed about being tested. Sexual interaction is a normal part of life and the thought of potentially being positive for an STD is nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of – there is real help out there. Given the prevalence of STDs in many age groups, races, sexual orientation and social classes, it is actually highly likely that many will be exposed to an STD and many will become infected. If there is any concern or doubt, simply take action – don’t hesitate – and get STD tested. Not only are you maintaining your health by being STD tested and potentially treated, you are setting a great example for everyone else. So don’t be anxious – getting STD tested will give you peace of mind, and we’re here to help all the way through the process.

Do you have any additional advice or suggestions to offer regarding STD testing?
We have learned that promoting and supporting active communication is powerful, and we enable this in our online forum where we promote people coming together for the conversation on important topics such as parents taking action with their children; finding out more about resources; dealing with a recent positive STD diagnosis; asking peers for advice; and many more. Make sure you make STD part of the conversation for yourself, your partners and loved ones.

For more information on STD tests, please read our STD Test Guide. To find an STD test, visit our STD Test Directory.


Bookmark Page