STD test kits let you screen for common sexually transmitted diseases without having to visit a doctor or clinic. A typical STD kit includes materials for collecting a sample at home and shipping it to a lab to be tested.
Most STD test kit providers work with licensed and certified labs and abide by HIPAA standards. Many offer supplementary medical support, sexual health resources, and nurse hotlines, as well as follow-up services like prescriptions and referrals.
Most STD test-kit companies offer kits for the following STDs:
Herpes 1 & 2
Hepatitis A, B, and C
Companies often offer panels that test for multiple STDs at once. These are generally more affordable, and the most popular option for general STD screening.
Using an STD test kit is simple and usually requires no referrals or prescriptions from your doctor. The process may vary slightly from one company to the next, but here’s a general breakdown of what you can expect:
Receiving your kit:
After you order your kit, it will be shipped to you in a discreet package and will include all the instructions, forms, and return information you’ll need. Most kits will include a barcode that you enter into the site which logs you into your own portal. This is typically where you’ll receive your results and communicate with staff.
Collecting a sample:
Collecting your sample can be done in minutes, though the squeamish may want some company for assistance or support. The sample needed depends on the test, but the 3 most common sample types are urine, vaginal swab, and finger-prick. The kit will include complete instructions as well as all the materials necessary for collecting and shipping the sample.
Submitting for results:
After you’ve collected your sample, you need to send it to the lab to be tested. The time it takes to receive your results varies but generally spans 3 days to 2 weeks depending on the company.
Results are typically delivered via a private online portal.
Most STD test-kit companies provide healthcare professionals to answer questions, explain results, and in the case of a positive test, guide you through the next steps. The degree and availability of the medical staff varies from one company to the next, though typically the staff will include nurses or physicians who offer referrals and prescriptions.
There are multiple reasons STD test kits can be advantageous. Anonymity is a big factor. Some people feel embarrassed to discuss their sex lives with their regular healthcare providers. By circumventing face-to-face encounters, STD kits allow people to be proactive about sexual health without the fear of being embarrassed or feeling judged.
STD test kits can also be more affordable than doctor’s visits, and are likely to save you time. Those with busy schedules may find it difficult to make an appointment during working hours. STD test kits can be taken in the comfort of home within minutes, thereby eliminating the time spent traveling to a physical office.
Finally, an STD test kit can foster peace of mind. If worrisome symptoms appear, or you simply want to be proactive with your sexual health, you can initiate the process immediately rather than wait to make an appointment. This autonomy allows sexually active individuals to get screened whenever they want with relatively little effort, making it easier to regularly check in on your sexual health.
Most companies work with CLIA-certified labs, which means that ideally, tests would be as accurate as in-person screenings. Of course, the nature of at-home test kits leaves more room for human error. Inaccuracies could arise from improperly collecting a sample, shipping or storage problems, or being tested before the incubation period of an STD. Many companies claim their tests are anywhere from 95%-98% accurate. As always, at-home kits should never replace regular medical checkups, and it’s a good idea to follow-up with your regular healthcare provider and seek medical attention if your results contradict the symptoms you’re experiencing.
It’s important to use a reputable STD test kit company. Here are some features to look for in a provider that can help you narrow down your options.
Certified labs: The most reputable companies will go through a certified laboratory. Make sure the company’s lab meets the standards of the CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments).
Healthcare professionals on staff: A good STD test-kit company will have a medical support team on staff to answer questions and provide next steps. Qualifications and availability will differ from one company to the next: some have physicians on staff, others nurses or physicians’ aides. A good company will offer a professional staff with medical credentials.
Resources on web page: An in-depth FAQ is one good sign of a legitimate company. Another good sign is supplementary resources. A company with a strong library of articles and links to sexual health resources on its site is likely to be more invested and reliable.