Medical Screening

Overseas Pre-Departure Screening and Testing

For all refugees ≥15 years of age, clinical evaluation and treatment for identified infection are mandatory for the following STDs:

  • Syphilis (laboratory testing required)
  • Gonorrhea
  • Note: Chlamydia trachomatis testing is not required (not considered a disease of public health significance under 42 Code of Federal Regulations part 34); however, many panel physicians use test kits that screen for both chlamydia and gonorrhea. When these tests are used, panel physicians are directed by CDC to document the test results in the remarks section of the DS 3026 (Medical History and Physical Examination Worksheet). If a refugee applicant for U.S. admission tests positive, the treatment provided should also be listed on the remarks section of the DS 3026 and the applicant should be given a “Class B Other” classification for chlamydia infection.

The medical history and physical examination should include a search for symptoms or lesions consistent with these diseases; however, many sexually transmitted infections can be asymptomatic. Routine laboratory testing for syphilis is performed for all applicants ≥15 years of age. Applicants younger than 15 years of age must be tested if there is reason to suspect infection or if there is a history of syphilis. Syphilis serologic testing is done according to the CDC Technical Instructions for Syphilis for Panel Physicians. Further testing is performed as necessary to confirm a suspected syphilis diagnosis.

All applicants >15 years of age must also be tested for gonorrhea. Applicants <15 years of age must be tested if there is a history of gonorrhea or reason to suspect infection. Testing should be done according to the CDC Technical Instructions for Gonorrhea for Panel Physicians, effective as of October 1, 2016.

In January 2010, HIV was removed from the list of excludable infections and is no longer routinely tested for overseas. Refugees who are diagnosed with syphilis or gonorrhea prior to departure are offered HIV testing. As of March 28, 2016, chancroid, lymphogranuloma venerum, and granuloma inguinale were also removed from the list of communicable diseases of public health significance. Therefore, evaluation for these three diseases is no longer required as part of the U.S. immigration medical screening process. For additional information, please see Part 34 Final RuleExternal, issued on January 26, 2016.

Recommendations for Post-Arrival Screening and Evaluation

The following STDs should be considered during the post-arrival medical examination:

  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Chancroid
  • Granuloma inguinale/donovanosis
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum
  • Genital herpes
  • Genital warts
  • Trichomoniasis
  • HIV

A complete evaluation for all STDs includes a thorough medical history, physical examination, and, for specific infections, testing, as many infections are asymptomatic.

The optimal medical history includes asking about sexual history, including any contact with a person who has, or had, a known STD, and asking about any history of signs or symptoms suggestive of an STD. Common signs and symptoms of infection include urethral, vaginal, or rectal discharge; dysuria; rash; sores on the genitals, anus, or mouth; or a rash on the palms or soles of the feet.

Pertinent elements of the physical examination for STDs include palpation for enlarged or tender lymph nodes, inspection of skin and oral mucosa, and an external anal and genital examination, including inspection for discharge, ulcers, or rashes. In refugees who previously experienced trauma (e.g., sexual assault victims), the anal and genital examination may be postponed until the refugee establishes a trusting relationship with a provider.

The following summarizes the currently recommended testing:

  • Screening syphilis testing should be performed routinely for refugees in the following categories:
    • All refugees >15 years of age, if no overseas results are available
    • Children <15 years of age who are at risk for congenital syphilis (e.g., mother who tests positive for syphilis), who are sexually active, or have been sexually assaulted should be evaluated according to the Congenital Syphilis section of the CDC Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2015.

Nontreponemal testing (e.g., Venereal Disease Research Laboratory [VDRL] and Rapid Plasma Reagin [RPR]): Refugees with a positive nontreponemal screening test (e.g., VDRL or RPR) should have confirmatory treponemal testing (e.g., fluorescent treponemal antibody absorbed [FTA-ABS], Treponema pallidum passive particle agglutination assay [TP-PA], various enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays [EIAs or ELISAs], chemiluminescence immunoassays). The use of a “reverse screening” algorithm (e.g., initial screening with a treponemal test, followed by nontreponemal testing) is another option for serologic testing when it is being used as a local standard of care.

Further evaluation, including evaluation for neurosyphilis, and treatment should be instituted in persons with a positive screening test, according to the CDC Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2015.

  • Chlamydia: Nucleic acid amplification tests
    • Female refugees <25 years old who are sexually active or female refugees >25 years who have risk factors (e.g., new sex partner or multiple sex partners, sex partner with concurrent partners, sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection) who do not have documented pre-departure testing
    • Female refugees with abnormal vaginal or rectal discharge, intermenstrual vaginal bleeding, or lower abdominal or pelvic pain
    • Male refugees with urethral discharge, dysuria, or rectal pain or discharge
  • Gonorrhea: Nucleic acid amplification tests
    • Female refugees <25 years old who are sexually active or females >25 years who have risk factors (e.g., new sex partner or multiple sex partners, sex partner with concurrent partners, sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection) who do not have documented pre-departure testing
    • Female refugees with abnormal vaginal or rectal discharge, intermenstrual vaginal bleeding, or lower abdominal or pelvic pain
    • Male refugees with urethral discharge, dysuria, or rectal pain or discharge.

NOTE: Consider testing any refugee who has a history of sexual assault for these STDs; management and evaluation of sexually assaulted children requires consultation with an expert (CDC Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines).

HIV testing is also strongly encouraged in newly arriving refugee populations according to current CDC guidelines for Screening for HIV Infection During the Refugee Domestic Medical Examination. Testing for HIV is particularly important and encouraged for any refugee with another confirmed STD.

The most current information on STDs, including treatment and laboratory guidelines, is available at: