How Accurate Are Home STD Tests?

Sarah Pritzker
Home STD test accuracy
At-home STD test kits are a quick and easy way for people to find out if they've contracted a sexually-transmitted disease. They are certainly more convenient, easier to deal with, and a lot more private than the alternatives. But the question is, are they accurate? After all, it doesn't do you any good to have a fast, easy STD test that doesn't give you the correct results.

At-Home STD Tests Are as Accurate as In-Office Tests

To begin with, the at-home STD test is actually not all that different from the one you'll get from your doctor's office. After all, the procedure is pretty much the same. You'll collect a sample based on the testing method and disease you're testing for. The sample needs to be sent to the lab and tested. You'll wait for the results, and take appropriate actions based on the results you receive.

In terms of accuracy, there is no difference between an at-home test and the one you’ll take at your doctor’s office. And just to put the numbers out there, today’s at-home STD tests have been proven to be accurate with an almost 100% accuracy rate. Kits range from 95%-98% accuracy and sensitivity of 98% or 99%. You’ll get the same numbers from an in-office test. So, you are dealing with incredibly accurate testing methods when you opt for an at-home version.

But there are also differences between the options. These boil down to convenience, comfort, privacy, and costs.

How to Prevent False Positives

When it comes to inaccuracy, you run into 2 issues: getting a false positive and getting a false negative. Getting a positive test result is usually a good thing. But when it's an STD test, positive results are the last thing you want to see. Unfortunately, there have been instances where people have received false positives from their STD tests. This can wreak havoc with your emotional state. But even more disturbingly, it can cause you to take certain medical procedures that, when done unnecessarily, can be harmful to the person.

So, how can you prevent this type of error from occurring? Well, there is no way to be 100% sure you won’t get a false positive from any STD test since the technology is fairly new. However, these tests are becoming increasingly more accurate with time and usage. In fact, there is no fear of false positives when it comes to gonorrhea, hepatitis B or C, and herpes at all. The others have a less than 1% chance of receiving a false positive, so there’s not much to worry about. 

But in case you want to bring those numbers down even more, here are a few ways to avoid getting the wrong message:

  • Opt for capillary testing

Choose an STD kit that uses capillary testing for their testing method. Capillary testing is a method that tests the capillaries (blood cells) for the specific diseases you’re looking for.  It’s known to be highly accurate, much more so than other forms of blood testing.

  • Choose reliable kit services

When it comes to STD testing, you want to have the best quality service out there. So, make sure you choose an at-home STD test kit service that is FDA-approved. Not all of them are, and if the one you've ordered isn't, at the very least, make sure they are working with a CLIA certified lab (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act) and accredited by the College of American Pathologists.

  • Test for the right diseases

STD testing has a lot to do with looking for the right things in the right places. The best way to prevent any false positives is to test for the right things. In fact, choosing the right test can greatly affect the overall accuracy levels.  There are blood tests that cover things like HIV I, HIV II, hepatitis C, herpes II, syphilis, and urine tests that check for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trich, etc.

More extensive 10-panel tests will also include hepatitis A and B, and herpes I. myLAB Box even has one that tests for 14 different STDs. If you aren't sure which tests to take, consult a medical professional, one of the free organizations available for disseminating this information like Planned Parenthood or contact the at-home STD kit service. They usually have a wealth of information and great customer service to help direct you toward the right test.

  • Taking multiple tests

The best and the most reliable way to get accurate results is by taking more than one test. This will give you a better percentage rate of accurate results. Bear in mind that you can get false positives equally from at-home or in-office STD tests. But the more tests you take, the greater the likelihood of getting 100% accurate results.

Incubation Periods: What They Are & How They Work

Another factor that could cause inaccurate results is the incubation period. This can cause a false negative. That's when the test returns results that you don't have any STDs when in effect, you do. False negatives can occur if a person takes the STD test too early. Your natural instinct would be to get tested right away after you've had unprotected sex, but this is not the way to get accurate results.

Each sexually-transmitted disease has its own incubation period, the time it takes between when someone contracts the disease before any antibodies are formed in your body to fight against it, and physical symptoms start to appear. Before this timeframe, the STD test will not recognize any diseases you might have and will mistakenly give you a false negative. The incubation period can span anywhere from 24 hours to 9 weeks, depending on the disease.

For the greatest level of accuracy, make sure you take your test after the incubation period has ended. Most professionals also agree that you should perform STD testing regularly if you are sexually active.

The Home-STD-Test Process: Break it Down

Ready to have safe sex? Then get yourself an at-home STD testing kit, and know what you’re dealing with. Not sure how this whole thing works? Here’s how it’s done and how it differs from in-office doctor’s STD testing:

  1. Find a brand that you like

    Do your research online, because not all brands were created equal.

    Differs: You can choose which brand you want, which tests you want, and what method you want. You aren’t locked into a particular doctor or test because they’re in your union.

  2. Buy your kit

    Decide which test you want. A single disease? Multiple diseases? Do you want a subscription plan, so you can get tested more often? Make your calculations and order your kit.

    Differs: Here too, there's a lot more flexibility. So, you get to decide instead of being tied to a specific doctor's decision.

  3. Take the test

    The kit will arrive in the mail within a few days, depending on your mail service and the service you've chosen. There will be clear instructions on how to take the sample. Some are blood samples, others urine, and still others genital samples.

    Differs: The biggest difference is in this step. You can take the sample in the comfort and PRIVACY of your own home. Nobody’s watching or waiting. Nobody’s judging. It’s all you, at your own pace, and in your own home.

  4. Send back the sample

    Once you’ve collected the sample, package it back in the provided envelope, and put that into the return envelope. Mail it back to the testing lab.

    Differs: You can mail the sample in instead of having to hand it over to some nurse (awkward).

  5. Check the results online

    The lab will test your sample and publish the results. Everything is published online to your private account, so it’s convenient and faster than mailing the results, and it’s more confidential because nobody else has access to your account. There are even at-home STD testing services that provide you with medical and emotional support in the event that you test positive for an STD.

    Differs: The next best part is the convenience. The results are published online to a private account that only you access. So, you get the results quickly, conveniently, and confidentially.

At-Home STD Testing: Empowering Americans

Don’t live in doubt or fear anymore. Knowledge is power. Take your health into your own hands with a private, convenient, and accurate at-home STD test kit, and empower yourself today.

Sarah Pritzker
Sarah Pritzker is a content writer with years of experience and a keen interest in the vast world of online consumer products. She enjoys helping readers make sense of the options on the market in a variety of fields.