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Burning Questions: How to Get an STD Test

A surprisingly chilled and stress-free experience at the The Shanghai Skin Disease and STD Clinic, where soap operas and syphilis collide.
Last updated: 2015-11-09

There are worse ways to spend an afternoon than getting STD tested. Go to one of the dedicated STD clinics in Shanghai and the experience is... Well, far from pleasant, but neither is it the grueling gauntlet of pain and humiliation that I was expecting. And you get to catch up on Chinese daytime soap operas...

I went in anticipating a shaming experience with impatient staff and unsanitary conditions, but left feeling entertained (yes, entertained — those daytime dramas are pretty good), as well as quite bouncy and self-satisfied. Turns out an STD check makes you feel like you've done something productive and healthy, like going to the gym.

I chose the Shanghai Skin Disease and STD Clinic, for reasons made obvious by its name. I'm not new to Chinese public hospitals. Once I walked into Huashan Hospital (which also has an STD-testing department) in pain, and cried my way out 15 minutes later after an embarrassing inability to navigate registration, and a failed attempt by two strangers to scam me into leaving with them. It was awkward. As a smaller, specialized public hospital, the Shanghai Skin Disease and STD Clinic is much less overwhelming for first timers.

Phoenix trees make any entryway look welcoming.

On arrival, I was nervous about how far English would get me. But before I could utter the phrase, “STD test” I was handed a ticket at Window 1, directed to fill out a patient card and to pay at the next window. If you can read “name,” “number,” and “address” in Chinese you'll be good to go. If not, you can bumble around at reception until someone takes pity and helps you complete the minimum info required.

Exciting, swastika-themed floor signage.

The waiting room is on the third floor and it's surprisingly... genial. It included a selection of completely average Shanghai citizens, some blue-collar family men, an over manicured Prada hawker, a possible KTV hostess, a pair of young lovers. Nobody seemed fidgety or ashamed, like I'd seen in waiting rooms of Planned Parenthood back home. Everyone was pretty chill considering the fact we were all there for (potential) penis and vagina problems. The wait for my consultation was about an hour. I asked the nurses whether this was the norm and they said yup, pretty much whenever you arrive the wait is usually about an hour.

My number in line, and directions to the waiting room.

I was kept entertained by a Chinese daytime drama playing in the waiting room. It was a typical over-acted damsel-in-distress-in-the-18th-century-Chinese-countryside piece of schmaltz, with a mysterious hero in an iron mask. In the breaks there were these commercials for a show called Xiao BaBa, which had English subs and looked way more interesting, and featured a man repeatedly telling a weeping child: “You are not my son!”

Everything went smooth as silk once I got called in the doctor's office. To my pleasant surprise, she asked what tests I wanted in gentle, fluent English, then got me spread eagled in the stirrups. My next surprise, not as pleasant, was that the chlamydia and gonorrhea test aren't done with a urine sample as they are in the US, but with pin-like cotton swab which was pushed up my urethra. The doctor gave me all the swabs to take to the testing area and a receipt to pay for all the tests. The total was around 250rmb.

I paid with a UnionPay card, and was told to come back in two days for the results. I had actually hoped for more waiting-room time so I could find out if the damsel ever discovered if the man in the iron mask was her baby daddy, but no such luck.

The two-day wait could be nerve wracking for some. I was pretty sure I hadn't fucked up majorly in the sexual safety department since the last time I'd been tested, but there's always that nagging voice in the back of your head... What if? Thankfully the pick-up process was the fastest and smoothest part. At Window 11 in the reception hall, I peeked on the computer to see little minus signs across the board. My print-out was all in Chinese so to be safe I went back up to the doctor to check it was all good. I didn't even take a number, I just marched into her office like a local, and she took the form and said: “Chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis, all OK. No problem.”

I don't have to preach about why it's great for all of us to get tested. Even if you always wrap up your xiao di di or have never made a foggy-headed walk of shame, unsure of exactly what happened the night before and how much precaution was taken, it's still important to get checked every couple of years. And now you know how cheap and easy it is, why not get it done just for the peace of mind, and the soap operas, or before that syph rots your brain.


The Shanghai Skin Disease and STD Clinic is on 1278 Wuyi Lu, by Yan'An Lu. According to their website, they've recently found a more appealing translation and go by the name the Shanghai Dermatology Hospital. Full listing here. Hours are as follows:

Morning Hours
Registration: 7:30-11am
Treatment Hours: 8am-Midday

Afternoon Hours
Registration: 12:30-4:15pm
Treatment Hours: 1:30-5pm