Sexually transmitted diseases, also known as STDs or STIs, are incredibly common among all genders, age groups, and sexualities. Everyone who is sexually active can be at risk of contracting an STD.
Despite how common STDs are, they are often associated with a significant stigma. People may feel ashamed or embarrassed if they suspect they have an STD, which can cause them to avoid visiting a doctor to get tested.
Not only does that put the patient at risk, it also puts all of their potential future partners at risk, too. Even worse, most people who have an STD don’t know that they have one, which means they could pass it on without ever having an idea of what’s happening. In fact, it’s possible to have an STD for years or even decades with no idea that you are infected.
Of course, the best way to prevent passing on an STD is to get tested, but many people avoid testing due to embarassment, inconvenience, cost, or all of the above.
Recognizing an opportunity to serve patients who may be interested in testing but do not want to visit a doctor’s office for one reason or another, many online companies have popped up to offer at-home STD tests for patients without a trip to the doctor’s office. The companies offer everything from fully at-home testing kits in which the patient collects their sample at home and mails it to a laboratory to a hybrid model in which the patient orders the test online and visits a local lab to have their sample taken.
We’ve put together a complete comparison guide for at-home STD test reviews so you can choose the company that’s best for you, but first, we’ll answer some common questions about STDs and at-home STD tests.
Common Questions About STDs and At-Home STD Tests
What are the most common STDs in the United States?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 20 million new STD infections are reported each year, with a prevalence of about 110 million infections in the United States in 2008.
The most common STD in the United States is the human papillomavirus (HPV), which affects over 79 million Americans and is linked to cervical cancer in women.
After HPV, the most common STDs are chlamydia and gonorrhea, which reported over 1.7 million cases and over half a million cases in 2017, respectively. Other STDS are much less common.
Who should consider taking an at-home STD test?
- Testing after having unprotected sex
- Testing after having sex in which the condom broke
- Testing before or after sex with a new partner
- Experiencing unusual symptoms
- Testing to confirm that a previous infection has resolved
- Testing because you want to stop using condoms with a current partner
- Testing because you haven’t had an in-office test in one or more years
- Testing out of curiosity
There is only one situation in which you should not consider taking an at-home STD test, which is after a recent or current partner has received a positive STD test result. In these situations, it’s important to go to a doctor’s office for an in-office test in order to make sure that the sample is collected properly and your results are as accurate as possible.
Are at-home STD test results as accurate as tests done in a doctor’s office?
Generally speaking, you will receive more accurate test results from a test that is done in a doctor’s office than your own home because a medical professional who has been trained in collecting the sample will be responsible for conducting the test, which means that the sample is less likely to be compromised. When patients collect samples from their own home, the sample may not be collected properly, which can lead to a false negative or false positive result.
A false negative result occurs when people receive a negative STD test result when they are actually positive for the STD. A false positive result occurs when people receive a positive STD test result when they are actually negative for the STD.
Studies have been conducted that examine the accuracy of tests done from samples conducted at home as compared to samples collected at a medical office. The study found that in testing chlamydia samples, self-collected vaginal samples led to a correct negative result 98 percent of the time and a correct positive result 92 percent of the time. Self-collected urine samples resulted in a correct negative result 99 percent of the time and a correct positive result 87 percent of the time.
While in-office testing is more accurate than at-home STD testing, it is still possible to receive an inaccurate result from a test done at a laboratory or medical office. If you receive a negative result but are experiencing symptoms, follow up with your doctor to consider retesting.
What are the advantages of at-home STD tests?
The rise in availability of at-home STD tests coincides with the growing telehealth movement in the United States and around the world. Increasingly, patients want the convenience of receiving medical advice on the go or at home and prefer to avoid visiting a doctor’s office.
At-home STD tests offer several advantages over in-office testing:
- Patients do not have to feel embarrassed when discussing their reasons for getting an STD test and do not have to discuss their sexual history, which means the process is more private and discreet.
- Patients are able to choose between being tested for just one type of infection, getting a full workup, or any combination of options in between.
- At-home testing is more convenient and eliminates the trip to the doctor’s office.
- Costs may be lower for online testing services in some cases, particularly when using a website that accepts health insurance, as the co-pay for a doctor’s visit is eliminated. Follow up with your health care provider to see if your insurance covers these tests.
- If you prefer not to use health insurance, you have lots of self-pay options and don’t have to worry about your results being reported to your health care provider.
- Telehealth appointments may be available sooner than waiting for an appointment to open up at your doctor’s office.
- You may be able to receive treatment for your infection through the online provider if you test positive.
What are the disadvantages of at-home STD tests?
Just as there are many advantages to at-home STD tests, there are also plenty of disadvantages.
Disadvantages associated with at-home STD tests include:
- Not knowing exactly what to get tested for without talking to a healthcare professional.
- Not knowing when you should get tested for certain STDs based on your potential exposure window, which can prevent you from receiving accurate results.
- Not understanding the results you receive and not having access to a medical professional to help you interpret them.
- Not having access to immediate treatment after receiving your results.
- Possibly paying more for the same test since you might be able to receive testing for free at a sexual health clinic.
- Not being able to apply the costs of your STD test to your commercial health insurance.
- Not receiving accurate results if the sample is collected incorrectly.
Is there anything I should look out for when choosing an at-home STD test company?
To make sure you’re selecting a reputable at-home STD test company, there are a few key words to look out for.
Make sure you look for companies that use FDA-approved tests rather than FDA-approved technology. Companies that use the phrase FDA-approved technology are not offering FDA-approved tests.
Also, look for companies that use certified and/or accredited laboratories, which helps guarantee that your results are as accurate as possible. CLIA-certified labs and CAP-accredited labs are excellent options.
Finally, make sure you understand exactly what is included in the package you purchase from the website. Some companies offer telehealth consultations at no extra charge with the purchase of a lab test kit, while other companies charge an additional fee for consultation or do not offer telehealth consultation at all.
Additionally, you should check to make sure that the testing is available in your state, as states have different rules about telehealth availability and laboratory testing.
At-Home STD Test Reviews
The results are reviewed by a physician for accuracy and then sent directly to your registered device. If you receive a positive result, you will have the option to consult with a physician directly through Everlywell’s website and may be able to access treatment.
When it comes to STD tests, Everlywell offers five individual tests for specific diseases, including HIV, trichomoniasis, hepatitis C, chlamydia and gonorrhea, and syphilis. If you have symptoms that closely align with one of these diseases or you have a known exposure to a specific STD, a single test may be your best option.
Everlywell also offers a comprehensive STD panel, which tests for HIV, trichomoniasis, hepatitis C, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, designed for men and a comprehensive STD panel designed for women, each of which use a different methodology. Women are tested with vaginal swabs and blood, while men are tested via urine and blood.
Single disease tests cost 49 dollars, while the full STD panel costs 149 dollars for both men and women coupons are frequently offered online. Patients can use an HSA/FSA card to pay for their tests, and shipping is free. Patients collect the samples themselves through a test kit sent directly to your home and then mail the result back in the prepaid packaging. According to the website, results are received within days.
LetsGetChecked allows patients to order their own STD tests, collect their samples at home, and receive results directly to their secure online account in as little as two to five business days. Unlike other websites, which allow patients to choose just one infection to be screened for, potentially lowering costs, LetsGetChecked specializes in offering packages with multiple screenings.
Packages available from LetsGetChecked include the Simple 2, which costs $99 and screens for chlamydia and gonorrhea, and the Complete 10, which costs $349 and tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, HIV, syphilis, gardnerella, mycoplasma, ureaplasma, and herpes 1 and 2. The Basic 3 package and Standard 5 package are available for $119 and $149, respectively, and test for common infections.
LetsGetChecked relies on patients to collect their own sample, which typically includes a urine sample or finger prick for a blood sample. While blood samples taken from a finger prick are considered to be as accurate as blood drawn from a vein, it should be noted that in general, patient-collected samples are less accurate than samples collected in a laboratory or doctor’s office. Patients who are concerned about the accuracy of their results may prefer to choose a company that requires you to visit a laboratory to have your sample collected.
In addition to offering patients the option to purchase their test kits online, LetsGetChecked also sells certain test kits in-store at CVS. If you receive a positive test result, you will receive a call from a nurse, who will help guide you through the process of how to receive treatment. Depending on the infection receiving the positive result, you may be eligible to have a physician send a prescription to a pharmacy of your choice. However, doctor consultations are not available.
STDcheck.com might just win the award for the fastest at-home STD test results. Tests take about five minutes for sample collection and results are received in as little as one to two days. With STDcheck.com, you don’t need a doctor to order your tests, as you can order the tests you want online or over the phone.
However, you will need to visit one of STDcheck.com’s 4,500 test centers nationwide in order to have your sample collected. You won’t need to make an appointment or provide any paperwork – just get in, give a sample, and go. While STDcheck.com doesn’t offer a fully at-home option, the advantage of going to a test center is that your results will be received more quickly – typically in just one to two days.
The company offers a comprehensive test panel that tests for ten different types of infections, including HIV type 1, HIV type 2, herpes 1, herpes 2, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, at a cost of $139. The same ten-test panel with the addition of HIV RNA early detection screening costs $258. Individual
tests are also available, including:
- Hepatitis A,B, or C for $24
- Herpes 1 or 2 for $45
- HIV 1 and 2 antibodies or syphilis for $49
- Chlamydia or gonorrhea for $59
- Both chlamydia and gonorrhea for $99
STDcheck.com offers the option of doctor consultations for positive test results and all tests are FDA-approved and performed in CLIA-certified laboratories, which helps ensure that your results are as accurate as possible.
MyLAB Box recognizes two inherent realities when it comes to at-home STD testing: people love the convenience and discretion of at-home testing, but self-collected samples aren’t always as accurate as the testing samples collected in a lab or doctor’s office.
MyLAB Box works to address both issues by offering patients completely at-home test kits that offer the option of vaginal, oral, and anal swabs, which can help to detect STDs that might not show up on genital screenings.
Patients have the option of choosing nearly 20 different STD screening test options, including tests for just one type of infection, which start at around $79, all the way up to a total panel with 14 different types of STD screenings for $399. The company also offers tests for common women’s health issues, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) and common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge. Testing is also available for mycoplasma genitalium, a new type of STD; MyLAB Box is the first to offer testing for this type of infection.
One of the most unique features of MyLAB box is the unique packages they offer for older adults (the Boomer Box), couples (the Love Box, which includes two test kits at a reduced rate), tests for women over the age of 30 (cervical cancer screening and HPV testing), and patients who are starting pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PrEP Box).
Test results from MyLAB Box are typically received in two to five days. Patients who test positive are eligible for a physician consultation and may be able to obtain a prescription for treatment through the telehealth component of MyLAB Box. Patients who do not receive a positive test are able to speak to a certified STD counselor.
If you are looking for the most comprehensive offering of STD tests on the market, look no further than Personalabs. The company offers 36 different types of STD tests at prices that range from 46 dollars for a simple syphilis blood test to $399 for a comprehensive recent exposure STD test.
The problem is that there are so many different types of tests available – many of which appear to cover the same illness with slightly different testing methodologies or details – that the average person may have difficulty knowing exactly what tests they need. Personalabs does offer telehealth consultations at a flat rate of $89 and appointments can be scheduled online, at which time your physician can help you select the right test. The good news is that if your test comes back positive, you can get a prescription written to treat certain common STDs.
Like other companies, Personalabs allows patients to order their own tests online but requires that patients visit a laboratory to have their sample taken. The company cannot conduct tests at lab locations in New Jersey, New York, or Rhode Island, but there are 2,300 partner locations around the nation. Turn-around-time for lab results is typically two to ten business days.
If you are certain that you want a completely at-home testing experience but are concerned about the accuracy of self-collected samples, NURX may be your best option.
The company allows patients to order their tests online and mails the kit directly to their home for self-collection of the blood or urine sample required. However, they also require patients to collect a vaginal swab, throat swab, and/or rectal swab, which can help detect STDs that might otherwise be missed in different samples. For this reason, it can be even more accurate than lab-based tests for some patients, particularly those who engage in unprotected oral or anal sex.
NURX tests are more expensive than many of the other options on this list, ranging $150 to $220 for patients paying without insurance. However, in addition to the convenience afforded by not needing to take a trip to the lab, NURX also offers patients unlimited access to a medical team for $15, which can come in especially handy if your results happen to come back positive or you have a question about your results.
The company also accepts health insurance, which is a unique characteristic not offered by many of the companies on this list. When paying with insurance, you’ll pay $75 initially for the test kit and shipping both ways, plus a $15 medical consultation fee.
NURX results are typically available in about seven business days. The company offers testing for chlamydia, trichomoniasis, HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis C, depending on the package selected.
PlushCare offers affordable and reliable STD testing online. One of the biggest advantages of using PlushCare is that patients have the option to speak to a doctor prior to choosing which tests to order, which helps to ensure that you’re ordering the right tests for your symptoms.
The process is simple: first, patients book an appointment with an online doctor who is certified in their state. Appointments are typically available the same day, and patients speak to their doctor directly through the PlushCare website or app. After speaking to your doctor about your exposure and/or symptoms, your doctor will help you choose the type of STD test that is right for you and will get your lab order sent to a local lab that is convenient for you.
Patients then visit the lab to provide a blood and/or urine sample, as required, and their test results are available in about three to five business days and sent by email to your PlushCare doctor. Patients who receive a positive test result will have the option of receiving a prescription or other necessary services through PlushCare telehealth providers.
PlushCare is a major telehealth company that accepts most types of major commercial health insurance coverage. Patients who do not have health insurance or who prefer to pay for their testing on their own also have a self pay option.
HealthLabs.com is another website that offers you the option of ordering your own tests online or over the phone and then has the sample collected in a lab.
The company offers testing for chlamydia, trichomoniasis, HIV, early HIV, herpes 1, herpes 2, gonorrhea, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C. Testing costs between $99 for a simple chlamydia and gonorrhea panel and up to $298 for the ultimate STD panel, which includes testing for early HIV and trichomoniasis.
One advantage of HealthLabs.com is that the company accepts many different forms of payment, including major credit cards, PayPal, HSA, and FSA payments. The company partners with over 4,500 laboratory locations across the United States, with lab results received in just 1 to 2 business days.
HealthLabs.com has specialists available who can help you interpret your testing results and also has physicians available for consultation if your results are positive. The website is simple to understand and provides good information about the right testing windows for each type of infection, depending on your exposure.
PrivateiDNA offers customizable STD tests that are designed to meet your needs. Patients choose from packages that offer anywhere from three to ten tests, but patients also have the option of choosing single tests for herpes 2, syphilis, trichomoniasis, HIV 1 and 2, hepatitis C, HPV, chlamydia and gonorrhea, and mycoplasma and ureaplasma.
The packages range from the P Box, which costs $108 and uses a urine sample to choose for three different tests, to the C Box Plus, which screens for 10 different infections and uses a blood sample, urine sample, and vaginal swab (for women) to screen for disease. Unlike some of the other companies on this list, PrivateiDNA does not offer screening for hepatitis A or B and it does not offer screening for herpes 1.
Results are typically received from your test kit in two to seven days and are delivered to a secure online account. The company operates seven days per week, so there is no delay in your results over the weekend. Satisfaction is guaranteed with a 30 day money back guarantee, less shipping and handling costs.
PrivateiDNA does not have a telehealth component, so consultation with a physician is not available, and you will not be able to receive treatment through the website. The company does offer a free retest after a positive result is received.
One common denominator of many of the at-home STD test companies listed above is that they will send you to Quest Diagnostics laboratories or a similar laboratory company to have your sample collected. As a result, you’re essentially paying for a middle man in your testing experience.
QuestDirect cuts out the third party and offers lab-based testing directly to consumers, who can order their desired tests online.
The cost for STD testing through QuestDirect ranges from $49 for a simple syphilis panel to $379 for an STD expanded screening panel, which screens for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, HIV 1, and HIV 2. Results are typically received within three to five business days.
One significant drawback of QuestDirect is that the company does not have the option of a telehealth consult for patients who may be unsure about what type of test may make the most sense for them, and patients are not connected with a physician if their results are positive. That means that you’ll have to seek additional treatment if you do end up with an infection.
The rising popularity of telehealth means that there are more options than ever before for at-home STD tests. When choosing the company you plan to use for your at-home STD test, make sure you thoroughly understand whether the sample will be collected by you at home or will require a trip to the lab, how your results will be provided to you, and what options you have for treatment in the event that you do receive a positive result.
Getting tested for STDs can be scary, but with at-home STD tests, you can take your health into your own hands without the embarrassment or inconvenience of an in-person doctor’s visit.
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Chris is one of the Co-Founders of Pharmacists.org. An entrepreneur at heart, Chris has been building and writing in consumer health for over 10 years. In addition to Pharmacists.org, Chris and his Acme Health LLC Brand Team own and operate Diabetic.org and the USA Rx Pharmacy Discount Card powered by Pharmacists.org.
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