Sometimes you gotta test. That is life. But doing it in Shanghai adds an added level of complexity, especially if your Chinese is not up to scratch. You can go to the local hospitals but navigating their arcane registration, consultation and results processes is like trying to peace at Costco. Or you can go to the private clinics, which are like floating on a cloud in comparison, but will cost you serious money if your insurance is not going to cover this. Plus there are questions of testing methods (up the urethra!), speed of results and convenience.
So! A few of us went and got tested at various hospitals and private clinics in Shanghai to give you an idea of what it's like and how much it will cost, in the case of private clinics; and exactly how to navigate the world of local hospitals, from walking in with no idea of what's going on to getting your test results a few days later. If you're in need, this is the last word.
Total time: 20 minutes (but that was lucky)
Price: 780rmb for all the tests they have and a followup for results
Results: 3-4 days
This option, on leafy Wuyi Lu, is for people who want complete anonymity* and/or people who object to the high prices of international clinics. (*Update May 2020: This clinic now requires a passport for treatment and is no longer anonymous.) There is no discernible customer care here but it is functional, and considering the sheer number of people that pass through here in a given day, these people have seen it all and will not be fazed by whatever you’ve picked up.
A couple of drawbacks: their testing method for males still involves sticking a needle swab up your urethra, a practice that has basically been left behind in the rest of the developed world; and because they aren’t using the latest technology for testing (urine testing), results take 3-5 days to come back (they are staggered, with some ready early, and others, like HPV, taking a full four days). And you’ve got to go pick them up in person.
If you’ve not been before, here’s how to do it. Face the hospital from across the street. On your left, there is an entrance covered by plastic flaps. Go through that. On your left again, immediately after entering, there is a nurse’s counter, where two nurses are sitting with a big board of different colored tickets under a sign that says Convenient Service Station. (Do not get in line with all the other people on the ground floor. They are there for other things.)
Tell the nurse you are there for STD or a sexual health test (xingbing jiancha, 性病检查). She’ll give you a white ticket with the red characters 性科 printed on it, and ask you to go to building number three. To get there, go deeper into the hospital, turn to your right, and follow the signs. There’s a slow elevator and a set of stairs. Both will take you to the third floor where the STD department is.
Once there, there’s a glass-fronted counter with the red characters 挂号 and 收费. Go there and handover the ticket you got downstairs. If you’ve not been before, the receptionist will hand you a white hospital registration booklet and direct you to fill out your name, your gender and your birthdate. (They can do this part in English.) Pay the registration fee (25rmb), either by Alipay or with good, old cash.
In return, you’ll get a plastic card for the hospital and a yellow printer sheet with your number for the line, like 第16030号. Take a seat, watch the monitors for your number, and when it comes up, go into the bare-bones examination room, where the doctor will be sitting behind a computer. He’ll sit you down, ask what’s up (but probably not in English) and you tell him as best you can. If you’re just there for a check, say xingbing jiancha (性病检查) or “STD” (that will cross the language border).
Either way, you’re gonna wind up with your junk out and him prodding and swabbing it – no one’s here for a toothache. Before you do, he’ll ask if you want everything – the whole menu! – quanbu, which you probably do. Then you’ll both stand up, go behind the blue courtesy curtain, and the swabbing and poking will begin. This includes the infamous three-time urethra swab, which is a light irritant for some guys and a torturous and painful violation for others. It’s over in 20 seconds.
Once you’re done, he’ll give you the four sample vials, you return back to the counter with 挂号 and 收费 on it, present your card, and pay for it all. If you’ve gone for the complete set, that’ll be 730rmb. Again, Alipay or cash. If you want to order a la carte, the HPV test is 300rmb, HIV is 60rmb, chlamydia is 60rmb, and gonorrhea is 30rmb.
Then you take your samples down the hall (directly opposite the counter you paid at), where a nurse, behind more glass, will take your samples and then draw blood for the remaining tests. This is factory medicine. Don’t expect privacy or even a band-aid afterward.
At this point, you will have collected two wide yellow printouts and one vertical white printout. The white printout lists all the tests and when you’re able to collect test results, but you might as well wait until they are all ready, which takes four full days and requires you to go back to the hospital to collect the results. Phew.
Still, when we went, the entire process, from walking in the hospital to walking out with the receipts, took less than thirty minutes and while no one was friendly, neither was anyone rude. They are just doing their job, and their job is to examine a lot – a lot – of junk.
How to Get Results
Go back to the third floor on your appointed day, either after 9am or after 2pm (it will say on the ticket), and go to the nurse’s counter, marked Service Center. Hand her your plastic card, which she’ll swipe to pull up and print out your results. You can read these yourself with a little Chinese.
There are multiple columns but what you are looking for is negative or yinxing (阴性). Make sure you are looking in the results column (jieguo, 结果) and not the reference column (cankao zhi, 参考值).
The nurse may help you with this, but also she may not, in which case you need to pay another 25rmb at the window on the 3rd floor to see the doctor again, who will interpret them for you, and prescribe any medicine in case you’ve gotten a positive result.
Total time: 40 minutes
Price: About 2,500 including doctor’s consultation
Results: Chlamydia in 30 minutes, the rest in three days
Jiahui Health, a relative newcomer to the international hospital and clinic field, has one clinic in downtown, opposite Charlie’s across Changshu Lu. It’s your standard private clinic experience: clean, comfortable, private and with a foreign doctor. The advantage here is the hygiene and privacy, as well as the rapid-testing for chlamydia which produces test results in about half an hour (other results, like HIV, take about three days). No need to walk through the procedure — when you’re paying these prices, it all happens in English.
Particularly notable on our visit there was how non-judgmental the doctor was, even when one of the results came back positive. This is not a given, no matter what level of healthcare you are getting — we’ve had much snarkier and condescending doctors at one of the very well-known private chains when it comes to STD testing.
The drawback here is obviously the four-figure price tag, which included a 1,000rmb doctor’s consultation, plus tests for chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis B and C and HIV but not HPV. Come here if insurance is on your side and you’ve had a less than pleasant experience at other private clinics, or if you need a chlamydia result within the hour.
One note: for men, they do a urine test, not the dreaded swab.
How to Get Results
Directly from the doctor for chlamydia and by phone or email a few days later for the rest. No need to go back to the clinic or pay for another consultation.
Terms you may find useful
STD test: xingbing jiancha, 性病检查
Take a number: gua hao, 挂号
Take blood: chou xue, 抽血
Regular checkup: zhengchang jiancha, 正常检查
Take a look: qing kanyixia, 请看一下
Symptoms: zhengzhuang, 症状
AIDS: aizibing, 艾滋病
HIV: ren ti mianyi quexian bingdu, 人类免疫缺陷病毒
Chlamydia: yiyuanti, 衣原体
Syphilis: meidu, 梅毒
Gonorrhea: linbing, 淋病
Herpes: paozhen, 疱疹
HPV: ren rutou liu bingdu, 人乳头瘤病毒
Results: jieguo, 结果
Negative: yinxing, 阴性
Positive: yangxing, 阳性
Total time: One hour and 40 minutes
Price: 390rmb (but not including an expensive HPV test)
Results: One hour (AIDS) to two weeks (herpes)
Huashan Hospital is a heaving, breathing mess. It attracts people from all over the country, and all of them seem to arrive on the day you've chosen to go. Since 2017, it has required a passport or Chinese ID card to register, which means your anonymity is shot. Price-wise, it's comparable to the Wuyi Lu clinic, so it's hard to see what advantage it has anymore. Still, if you insist on Huashan for your own reasons (the public hospital, not the "VIP" ward, which is the same as the public hospital but with a dressed-up waiting room, essentially), here's how to do it.
First, find the outpatient (门诊) building. There are a dozen buildings on the grounds of the hospital; outpatient is the one where the entrance diagonally faces the intersection of Huashan Lu and Wulumuqi Lu. There's a big red 门诊 over it.
Once in, the chaos begins. Take a deep breath. Make your way up the escalator twice, to the third floor. Find the table with the registration books. Make sure you've brought your passport. Fill out the book with name, gender and passport or Chinese ID card info and take it to the registration window marked "9". Tell the person behind the glass you want a xingbing jiancha (STD check, 性病检查). Pay the 25rmb registration fee (Alipay and WeChat both ok, but again, your anonymity gone) and get a hospital card and a number for the STD clinic, something like 38008.
Huashan requires you to go early. Show up in the afternoon and you risk not being able to get a number at all, as the amount of patients for any given day is limited. They suggest a 7am start. We went at 7.30am and the hospital was already heaving with people.
Anyway, once you've gotten your card and number, head to your left, and then down the hallway to your right (there are two, both will do) until you find the STD clinic, which is a small office in the corner. Have the person in the office double-check your documents and then take a seat and wait for your number to come up on the TV screen.
Go into the door marked 38, and then follow the arrows on the floor. The first one will take you into the doctors' office (plural), where one of the two will ask your symptoms (zhengzhuang, 症状), scan your card, and assign whatever tests you or they think necessary (or all of them — quanbu, 全部 — to be safe). From there, the odyssey begins.
Now take all of the papers you've accumulated so far, head down to the second floor, find the cashier windows in the right-hand corner, marked 门诊收费处 (menzhen shoufeichu), and get in line again. When it's your turn, pass over your hospital card and pay the total by either WeChat, Alipay or sweet anonymous cash. Take your card back, now with a receipt for all the tests, and go back up to the third floor, back through door number 38, and then into the doctors' office.
This is when the examination happens. It's not pleasant. Of course, every doctor is different, but compared to the Wuyi Lu STD clinic, the ones here have a particularly painful technique for the urethra swab involving a spinning twist and plunging motion. Significantly more painful but over in 30 seconds.
Zip up, dry off the tears, and go ever so slightly across the hall to have your blood drawn. There's a small sign advertising it as the blood collection area or 抽血处. They are not delicate but it's over quickly, and unlike the Wuyi Lu STD clinic, at least they tape on a cotton ball. Congratulations, you have cleared the STD gauntlet!
How to Get Results
Results must be picked up in person at the same tiny corner office in the STD clinic, and are pulled up with your card. AIDS results are ready in an hour. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are ready in three days, and herpes takes two weeks to complete. Once you have results, you can take them into the doctors' office to read; the nurse won't tell you a thing.
Total time: Around an hour, plus a follow-up a week later.
Price: 3,000rmb, but most insurances this as "wellness benefits".
Results: Same-day for HIV, two days for chlamydia, three days for the rest.
Ever Better is a large, specialist hospital deep in Pudong, but it’s a decent option for women either side of the river. The whole place is clean, quiet and calming; it was also eerily empty of patients when we visited at around 4:30pm on a weekday, so it’s good for anonymity. Appointments can be booked directly (most staff speak English) or through your insurance company.
On arrival, you’re asked to complete a form requiring general personal and health information (with English translations). You’re then taken up to the consulting rooms for an initial chat with a doctor. Ours was female, in case that factors into your decision-making, and spoke good English (with a little Baidu support for technical terms). After the conversation, the doctor undertakes a brief initial examination, and then you’re into the gamut of tests – and this is one full gamut. Expect at least one swab, blood test and internal ultrasound as a minimum. They even give you a scan of your uterus to take home. Fun!
It’s probably best to call your insurance company for pre-authorization to make sure they’ll cover at least some of the costs here. It’s pretty steep compared to the other options on the list. To be fair, though, it goes well beyond your standard STD test; it’s a full gynecological check-up. More like family planning than a place to get a quick test done. Either way, Ever Better is a very non-threatening and private option for STD testing.
How to Get Results
Results were available fairly quickly; the doctor asked us to add her on WeChat to arrange a follow-up appointment, so you could probably get results without going back in. There's no charge for the follow-up appointment.
A Few Other Options We Didn't Go To
We didn't personally get swabbed and poked and examined at these places, but they also offer STD tests. This is not a comprehensive list; consider it just a couple more options.
Ren'ai Hospital, 2,405rmb for men (blood test and swabs), 2,500rmb for women, both including consultation. Results in five days.
Parkway Health, no standard package for STD testing. You'll need to book a consultation with a doctor first, which costs 1,300rmb. The doctor will then recommend any necessary tests, which are individually priced. For example, an initial HIV test is 300rmb. Bear in mind that prices are dictated by your "condition", so it should be the same price regardless of your gender. One perk here for men is that they do urine tests for chlamydia, no swabs needed, with results back the same-day, if not faster.
Ruijin Hospital, prices are in line with other public hospitals like the two listed above, as is the speed of results. The STD clinic is on the seventh floor of Building 1.
Happy testing, Shanghai!
Looking for more hospitals in Shanghai? See our Health directory right here.