Getting tested for STDs can be an embarrassing process, whether it’s broaching the conversation with your doctor or waiting to be seen at a free clinic. As such, it’s no wonder that STD testing at home has risen in popularity. The idea of confidential STD testing at home seems more convenient: You can do it whenever you like, in the privacy of your home, and send the kit away at your convenience. There’s no awkward face-to-face conversation (at least, not with a medical provider) and the whole experience is on your terms.
However, as with many things, STD testing at home may be too good to be true.
Unfortunately, user error may reduce the accuracy of these tests. Most at-home test kits require you to prick your finger and collect a blood sample, genital swab or urine sample, depending on the kit and what you are being tested for. It is possible to make mistakes when collecting the samples, and this could make the test less accurate.
As a result of this and other factors, at-home STD test kits have been shown to provide false negative results more frequently than testing done with a lab or reputable testing center. What that means is that an at-home test kit could tell you that you’re free and clear when, in reality, you might be infected with an STD and able to pass the infection on to your sexual partners.
Suppose your at-home STD test is analyzed and you get notified that you’ve tested positive. Whether it’s an accurate result or not, what does that mean? What are your next steps? Is treatment available? How will you receive it? In most cases, a doctor or pharmacy won’t prescribe you something just because a kit you bought online told you so.
Something else that STD testing at home can’t offer is a personal experience. While that might seem like something you’re trying to avoid, having someone to talk to about your testing experience and results can be helpful. It doesn’t have to be your doctor or someone at a free clinic, either. With the rise of telemedicine, many STD testing providers offer online chat or phone options, allowing you more privacy while still walking you through the testing process.
Although an at-home STD test kit may seem more private, it can sometimes be the opposite if someone you live with discovers the box, or someone on your street or in your building sees it on your doorstep or in your hands as you walk back to your home. It’s also not nearly as quick as some other STD testing options, either, given that it can take time for the kit you ordered to arrive, to get back to the lab, and for you to get results.
While STD testing at home might seem like a convenient and private way to cover your STD testing, you’re better off going to a reputable testing provider for results that are likely to be more accurate.