It's your turn in the party game of "Would You Rather": Following a screening for a sexually transmitted infection (STI), would you rather get a false negative or a false positive? The former allows for some short-term celebration followed by some potentially serious health issues; the latter provides an initial scare with a happy ending.

False positives in STI screening are rare, but rare doesn't mean nonexistent. Because of how certain infections act in the body, it's hard to design a test that is both fast and completely accurate all the time—as with any test or instrument in any industry, a false positive or negative can and does occasionally happen.

Technology is too sensitive

False positives may be the byproduct of advancing technology.

Nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) are extremely sensitive and represent a massive step forward in testing for all infections, not just STIs. In fact, NAATs have been used extensively during the past 18 months to test for SARS-CoV-2, the