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How Confidential are At-Home STD Tests?

Sarah PritzkerBySarah PritzkerMar. 12, 2020
STD test confidentiality
At-home STD tests are a growing trend because they're easy, convenient, and, most of all, private. But just how confidential are these tests, what are the best ways to keep your privacy uncompromised? And are there brands that excel at confidentiality? Let's check it out.

Why STD Testing is Vital

Sexually-transmitted diseases just keep spreading. Why? Because people don’t know that they have diseases like AIDS, gonorrhea, and hepatitis until they’ve already passed it on to a sexual partner, who then passes it on to someone else, and the cycle continues, spreading these debilitating diseases across the world at a rapid pace. Increasing the public awareness of the need to test for STDs has been a major project. But today, people are much more aware of the fact that if they’ve had unprotected sex, they need to get checked. 

Knowing the problem exists is the first barrier to successfully eliminating STDs. The next hurdle to keeping them under control is actually getting people to take the tests. This is a tricky one because STD tests are traditionally uncomfortable to ask for and inconvenient at the very least. So, the medical community has responded to these hang-ups with innovation. Now, you can get at-home STD tests. Just order one online and have the results in a matter of days. It's safe, it's fast, and it's easy. And best of all, you don't need to deal with your local doctor's office.

How Your Confidentiality Works When it Comes to STD Testing

In general, no matter what you do, you are going to have to tell someone that you might have an STD. Whether you’re typing your information into a form on the computer or filling out a form at the doctor’s office, that info is being put out there. This is where the similarities end in terms of privacy and confidentiality. Doctor’s offices and at-home testing options vary incredibly from here on in. Let’s take a look at those differences, so you can determine which is the method that will afford you the most privacy and comfort during this testing process.

Declaring Your Sexual Health Status

Though it may be obvious to you, it is not entirely apparent how confidentiality plays a role in STD testing at all. When it comes to doing an STD test at your doctor's office, there is a legally-binding contract that you enter into with your doctor. Any information that is shared during the visit, in regards to tests that are ordered and results that come through, are completely protected by confidentiality laws.

However, there is something that you should be aware of. If you test positive for a sexually-transmitted disease, the lab or doctor's office is required by law to turn over this information to the Center for Disease Control. In theory, this law is in place in order to allow healthcare professionals to reach out to someone with an STD and give them proper assistance. It is also to ensure that the disease is taken care of and does not spread to the general public. Of course, this information is also kept confidential and shared only on a need-to-know basis.

This is true of both lab-tested and doctor’s office STD testing methods. Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll still be subject to the same laws and regulations if you have contracted a sexually-transmitted disease such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or HIV.

This is not the case with online, at-home STD testing kits, though. And that is one of the biggest benefits of using this method. If you aren't interested in having your family doctor know what's going on or having your results shared with the healthcare system in general, at-home testing is a much better option. This is a popular option for teens who are nervous that they may have contracted an STD during a recent sexual encounter. But it holds equal value for adults who are more concerned about their privacy.

Privacy in Policy

What's even more encouraging is reading through the privacy policies of the online at-home STD kit services. All of the most reputable ones, including Let'sGetChecked, myLAB Box, and Everlywell, have very clear confidentiality policies. For example, here's one from myLAB Box:

“Any information that you enter on a myLAB web site or mobile application concerning your screening results, lab results or STD status will be held in strict confidence.  We will never share your information with third parties, unless legally required to do so.”

There is a caveat, though. These at-home testing services are required by law to report certain positive results. For example, if you test positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea, they’ll have to report this. The information is handed over mostly for census purposes, though, and you won’t be contacted directly as a result of this information.

But there is another important difference here worth noting. When you order a kit online, you don't have to give your real name. In some cases, such as Everlywell, the package comes back to their lab completely anonymously. You're just a number. So, even if you get a positive test result, your name won't be associated with the results. Just a number. This is a majorly different process than the one at the doctor's office.

Privacy in Procedure

The other reason at-home STD testing is more attractive to people who value their privacy is that it's easier to keep things on the down-low this way. When you use the at-home method, you'll order the kit online (confidential), get the kit delivered to your home (confidential), take the sample at home (confidential), and receive the results online (confidential).

See the pattern? Everything will be done from the privacy of your own home. No one else is involved in the process, and nobody else needs to know about it. You don't have to tell anyone else if you don't want to, and you don't have to explain yourself or answer any questions about your sexual activity from a complete stranger.

This definitely beats the doctor's office option. If you want to go that route, this is what you'll have to do:

  1. Make an appointment and visit your doctor.
  2. Have a consultation with the medical staff.
  3. Make another appointment to get an STD test.
  4. Come back to your doctor to give them a sample for the test.
  5. Go home and wait for the results.
  6. Go BACK to the doctor for another appointment to get the results and discuss treatment plans.

That's lots of traveling back and forth, waiting in the doctor's office, and dealing with other people in regards to a sensitive topic. And if you fall into certain high-risk groups, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you do this a few times a year!

Finding the Best At-Home STD Test Kit for Privacy

The CDC highly advocates at-home STD testing. The more accessible these tests are to the general public, the faster and more easily people can get help treating their STDs, and the more quickly and effectively we can keep STDs under control. According to a microbiologist from the Center, consumers need to choose a kit that complies with the regulatory standards, works with a certified laboratory, and one that provides FDA-approved tests.

Sarah PritzkerBySarah PritzkerMar. 12, 2020
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 industries including diets, dating, meal delivery and psychic reading.