Like most things these days, when you want to know if you’re experiencing symptoms of an illness, you take to the internet. Of course, the only problem with Googling your symptoms in the age of information is that you can get bombarded with a ton of potential answers, and it can be tough to decipher what you actually have versus all of the potential things it possibly could be. Take, for example, if you think you may have contracted an STD. Probably not a scenario where you want to play doctor and try to diagnose yourself – especially if you’re sexually active with a partner, and could potentially spread it. But if you’re trying to avoid the hassle and costs associated with a doctor, there are a few STD testing kits you can get done in the comfort of your own home that can help determine whether or not you have the disease you’re worried about. Or, if you’re not experiencing symptoms but want to make sure you aren’t carrying anything you could potentially pass along to your partner, STD testing kits can also help determine that.
Like most things these days, when you want to know if you're experiencing symptoms of an illness, you take to the internet. Of course, the only problem with Googling your symptoms in the age of information is that you can get bombarded with a ton of potential answers, and it can be tough to decipher what you actually have versus all of the potential things it possibly could be.
Take, for example, if you think you may have contracted an STD. Probably not a scenario where you want to play doctor and try to diagnose yourself — especially if you're sexually active with a partner, and could potentially spread it. But if you're trying to avoid the hassle and costs associated with a doctor, there are a few STD testing kits you can get done in the comfort of your own home that can help determine whether or not you have the disease you're worried about. Or, if you're not experiencing symptoms but want to make sure you aren't carrying anything you could potentially pass along to your partner, STD testing kits can also help determine that.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few recommendations on STD testing kits that screen for the common ones, where to find them, how to use them, how much they'll cost and more.
A Doctor's Take On At-Home STD Testing Kits
Before you decide you're going to rely solely on an STD testing kit to check in on your sexual health, urologist Dr. David Shusterman of NY Urology makes the point that if you are already experiencing symptoms of an STD that you may have contracted — take for example, sores that look like herpes, you're going to have to pay a visit to a doctor to seek treatment anyway, even if the cause winds up being something other than an STD. Which means that testing yourself with an STD kit could end up wasting time and money that you could be using to get treated for what it is you have.
But if you're just looking for an overall check-up, Dr. Shusterman says STD testing at home can help. "Truly, the only good reason to take a STD testing kit is if you are planning to start a new and monogamous relationship — and neither of you have any symptoms or any diseases, but the couple would still like to just test it out," he says. "Then the test becomes more of a prevention and planning. Both partners take the test, and it's just to see."
Because most STD testing kits use urine samples to determine whether or not you have one, Dr. Shusterman says this also leads to inaccuracies. "The test in the STD testing kit is urinary. Even though, it's a poor test, it's still better than nothing. Blood work in a doctor's office is better, and it's much more conclusive. If you have a symptom, then you should get treated," he says.
A Few Kits To Consider
If you're in the situation that Dr. Shusterman mentioned earlier — with a steady partner and not experiencing symptoms, here are a few trustworthy, no hassle kits that will get you quick results with a high rate of accuracy.
Most at-home testing kits will screen for a number of STDs, and this can end up driving up the cost. PrivateiDNA makes at-home STD testing more affordable by giving users the option to order tests that single out the STD you want to be tested for — including HIV I/II, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, syphilis, herpes (HSV-2) and hepatitis C at $79 each.
If you're looking to test for all of the above, PrivateiDNA's premium test ($250) screens for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV (1 and 2), syphilis, herpes (HSV-2) hepatitis C and trichomoniasis. The basic test ($150) screens for the most common infections: chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis.
When testing for HIV, herpes and syphilis, a small prick of blood is required in order to test. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis are tested with a urine sample. Turnaround times for results vary depending on which lab you ship your sample to, but typical turnarounds range anywhere from 2-7 days. To obtain the testing kit of your choice, you'll need to place your order online, and the kit shops free to anywhere in the U.S. in discreet packaging. All tests are FDA-approved, and testing is conducted in a CLIA-certified, CAP-accredited and HIPAA-compliant laboratory.
Find out more at Privateidna.com
While nothing beats visiting your doctor, one new player in the space, EverlyWell, is taking big strides to offer at home STD testing that takes minimal work with a high rate of accuracy. "All of our tests have been fully validated according to the highest laboratory standards in the United States, which is [the] CLIA and CAP (College of American Pathologists)," says Dr. Marra Francis, Medical Director at EverlyWell. "The validation studies include precision, accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, reproducibility, stability, interference, cross-reactivity, feasibility and clinical studies. The test kit itself has an overall accuracy of 99% considering all tests combined. Each specific test has its own sensitivity and specificity, all of which are near or well above 95%. Your results are independently validated by a physician in your state to ensure validity and reliability."
If you want to test for STDs that require a blood sample such as herpes, EverlyWell's comprehensive at home sexual health kit tests for gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis C, HIV, herpes (HSV-2), chlamydia and trichomoniasis. "For females, a blood spot sample is taken using a finger-prick lancet, as well as a vaginal sample," says Dr. Francis. "For males, a blood spot sample and urine sample will be required. Once collected, you'll simply prepare them for shipment to one of our CLIA certified lab partners, and once received by them, you'll receive your results within five business days beginning on the day the samples are received."
However, these more accurate results are going to cost you — though they are covered under some insurance plans. "Male and female comprehensive kits are both priced at $239 and are typically covered by HSA or FSA accounts," says Dr. Francis. However, the kit does include free shipping to wherever you are located (as long as it's within the U.S.).
Find out more at Everlywell.com
Another newcomer to at home STD tests, myLAB has competitive testing rates for single STDs, but their full screens will set you back considerably. A test for chlamydia and gonorrhea will cost you $79, HIV tests start at $73 and testing for trichomoniasis alone (one of the most common STDs) costs $79 as well. However, if you're looking to screen for more than the above, their 8-panel "love box" that tests for HIV (I & II), hepatitis C, herpes (HSV-1), syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis will set you back $499, and their 13-panel testing kit which tests for HIV, hepatitis C, Herpes (HSV-1), syphilis, chlamydia 3-site, Gonorrhea 3-site, trichomoniasis, HPV (human papillomavirus), mycoplasma, and ureaplasma) is priced at $399.
To obtain your kit, you order directly from their website to have it shipped free to your door. All tests take just five minutes to complete at home. From there, you'll mail the test in to your local lab, and have your results in 2-5 business days. The accuracy of these tests range from 98%-99.2% in specificity.
Find out more at Mylabbox.com.
$79.00 – $189.00 at Amazon.com
If what's keeping you from seeing a doctor is more about the copays than it is the trip there, PlushCare eliminates the costs associated with seeing a doctor. In fact, they even coordinate with an MD to have the test ordered for you, which eliminates the hassle and gets the cost of the tests down to extremely competitive rates. The catch? You'll need to visit a lab near you in order to obtain your test and take it at the facility. However, this also saves you the guesswork of reading instructions at home and ensures you're doing it right. PlushCare offers single STD tests for syphilis, hepatitis B and C (tested together, HIV, herpes (HSV-1 and HSV-2, tested together). The syphilis test is only $45 as is the test for hepatitis B and C. HIV testing will cost you $50, herpes (HSV-1 and HSV-2) for $80, and a combined chlamydia and gonorrhea test at $90. However, if there's not just one type of STD you're concerned about, you can test for all of the above at $199.
Once you've decided which tests you want to take, you input your shipping and payment information on the site. The kit will be shipped for free to your local lab of choice, where you'll take either a urinary or blood test, depending on the type of STD you're looking to screen for. Results are available in just three business days or less. Testing in a lab also eliminates potential inaccuracies associated with taking the test at home, meaning results have a higher rate of accuracy.
Find out more at Plushcare.com
While at home STD testing kits can give you an idea of where you're at in terms of your sexual health, it's important to see your doctor if you think you may have contracted an STD — especially if you are experiencing symptoms. The good news is that most STDs can be cured with medication — but the longer they're left untreated, the more at risk you are for developing complications. So it's in your best interest (and of course, your partners) to seek treatment sooner rather than later.