​Public health laboratories identify sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs and STIs) using state-of-the-art diagnostic testing procedures and report test results to medical practitioners for clinical diagnosis and treatment.

Working in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health partners, APHL develops best practices, guidelines and training for STD diagnostic testing in public health laboratories. Because treatment is predicated upon STD diagnostics, it is critical that public health laboratories maintain leading edge capability in this area.

The organisms most commonly tested for in public health laboratories include: Chlamydia trachomatis, the causative agent of chlamydia; Neisseria gonorrhea, the causative agent of gonorrhea and Treponema pallidum, the causative agent of syphilis. Other organisms frequently tested for in public health laboratories include but are not limited to: Trichomonas vaginalis, the causative agent of trichomoniasis, and Herpes simplex viruses types 1 or 2, the causative agent of genital herpes.

As changes in the healthcare system and public policy have changed so has the role of the public health laboratory. The increased competition from the private sector along with fiscal challenges in state and local public health departments has led to the decrease or elimination of STD services in some PHLs and raised the question of the future role of STD testing. The APHL Subcommittee addressed the 2011 issue brief The Role of Public Health Laboratories in STD testing to foster discussion amount PHLs and their partners.

For more information, contact Anne M Gaynor, Phd, manager, HIV, Hepatitis, STD and TB programs, Infectious Disease, 240.485.2739, anne.gaynor@aphl.org.