Regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is important for overall health and any necessary treatments. At-home tests can provide an accurate and convenient method for knowing your status.
STDs and STIs are very common. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 million STIs are acquired daily worldwide.
One reason for this is that contraceptive methods, such as condoms, are not always failproof. Overall, if you’re sexually active, you could contract an STI.
Nowadays, there are dozens of at-home testing kits that may make getting tested easier.
Here’s some information on quality at-home testing options, how to figure out what type is best for you, and when to contact a doctor.
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing an at-home STD test, which is why we turned to the experts.
Our vetting team goes the extra mile to make sure you have the best options available to you. Every product we recommend and brand we work with is thoroughly vetted by our team. If there are any lawsuits, recalls, or regulatory action letters documented about these products or companies, our vetting team makes sure they’re reported and listed.
In addition to legalities, our team always checks for medical credibility, good business practices, privacy practices and security, social impact, and the validity of any health claims a brand makes about a product. At-home testing services are required to abide by telehealth standards in the following circumstances:
Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)- and/or Certified Analytics Professional (CAP)-certified
guidance available to customers who test positive for an STD
prescription services available in the event of positive test results
physician orders for in-person lab testing available where necessary
STIs are infections transmitted from one person to another during vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
An STI is considered an STD when it causes symptoms. Usually, an infection is the first step on the road to potentially developing a disease.
Not all diseases start as infections. But in the case of STDs, they do. In both cases, STIs and STDs are used interchangeably, mostly because of the stigma that is associated with the term “STD.” We also use these interchangeably throughout the article.
With dozens of at-home testing kits available, it can be hard to choose the right one. After all, what does a good at-home STD testing kit look like? What should it entail? What do you need?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Your needs will vary, depending on your situation and circumstances. Also, they may change over time.
This chart can help you determine which type of test is right for you.
Reasons to test
Fully online test
out of curiosity
after sex without a condom or another barrier method, or after a condom broke
experiencing unusual symptoms
before or after a new partner
recent or current partner received a positive test
want to stop using a condom with your current partner
haven’t had an in-office test in 1 or more years
If you think you’ll need help determining results from your at-home test, taking an in-office test may be preferable. It’s an immediate source of information, and an action plan can be created on-site in the case of a positive result.
Also, be sure the test you choose is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To determine whether the FDA approves a product, you can check the FDA’s website.
While every home STI testing service is different, most of the brands recommended here offer professional advice or support for reading test results at home.
If you do a fully at-home STI test, there is a risk that you’ll misinterpret your results. Lab-based tests can also be difficult to interpret if you have no medical background.
As such, it’s best to opt for a testing service where you have access to a healthcare professional who can discuss your results with you. They can help you interpret your results and advise you on treatments and safety.
There are many types of STI tests. The tests listed above test for a bunch of different STIs. If you want to test for a specific STI, check out these options:
Our roundup of seven at-home STD tests is a good starting point if you want to get tested without contacting a doctor.
Depending on the test, you may need to visit a lab for collection. Every other part of the process, including the lab order, payment, and results, is done online.
If you receive a positive test result, the testing kit company may offer a consultation with one of their doctors. During that consultation, you can discuss any next steps, such as further testing or treatment.
At this point, it’s also a good idea to contact your primary care doctor to share your results.
How do at-home and lab-direct STD tests work?
With both at-home and lab-direct tests, you’ll provide a sample. The samples may include blood, urine, anal, vaginal, or oral swabs.
The samples are submitted to a lab, and results are shared discreetly.
If you receive a positive STD result, contact your primary care clinician to discuss the best treatment option for you. Also, be prepared to notify any partners of the positive result.
How do I know if I should get tested?
If you’re sexually active or engaging in activities that have the potential to increase your chance of an STD or STI, it’s important to get tested.
In fact, according to the CDC, “Getting tested for STDs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health.”
How can I tell if I have an STD without going to the doctor?
An at-home test may confirm whether you have an STD, but it’s important to contact your doctor if you have symptoms of a possible infection. These symptoms may include:
vaginal or penile burning or discharge
pelvic or genital pain
sores or bumps around your genitals, anus, or mouth
atypical bleeding (bleeding other than menstruation)
How often should I get tested?
The CDC recommends that people ages 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once a year as part of their routine health checkup.
The CDC also recommends that sexually active women under 25 years old get tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.
In addition, the CDC suggests that pregnant people get tested for syphilis, hepatitis B, and HIV early in their pregnancy.
Sexually active men who have sex with men may want to also get tested for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea annually.
If you experience symptoms at any time, don’t wait to get tested. The quicker you’re tested, the sooner you can begin treatment.
Are STD tests accurate?
Most modern STD tests are very accurate. Still, test accuracy can vary, depending on the type of sample and the test detection method.
Traditional in-office tests are more accurate than fully online tests, and home-to-lab tests are more accurate than self-collected tests. But all are highly efficient.
How reliable are at-home STD tests?
While in-office STD tests may be considered the most reliable, the at-home test kits on our list also have a reputation for being accurate.
It’s important that you don’t rely on home testing in place of contacting your doctor if you have any possible symptoms of an STD or STI or have other important questions about your overall health.
Yes. For at-home STD testing, you collect a urine sample or an oral or genital swab and then send it to a lab for analysis. You can collect the sample in the privacy of your home without the need for a pelvic exam or office visit.
Testing can help prevent the transmission of STIs. It can also help you get the appropriate treatment if you have a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection, as many STDs and STIs can be treated or cured.
Contacting a doctor or other healthcare professional is generally the most reliable way to know whether you’ve contracted an STI or have an STD. But an at-home test is an excellent alternative. For many, an at-home test is a confidential and convenient option.
Kimberly Zapata is a mother, writer, and mental health advocate. Her work has appeared on several sites, including The Washington Post, HuffPost, Oprah, Vice, Parents, Health, and Scary Mommy — to name a few. When her nose isn’t buried in work (or a good book), Kimberly spends her free time running Greater Than: Illness, a nonprofit organization that aims to empower children and young adults working through mental health conditions. Follow Kimberly on Facebook or Twitter.
Kristeen Cherney is a freelance writer and PhD candidate who specializes in covering topics related to mental disabilities, women’s health, skin health, diabetes, thyroid disease, asthma, and allergies. She’s also currently working on her dissertation, which explores intersections of disability studies and literacy studies. When she’s not researching or writing, Cherney enjoys getting outdoors as much as possible. She also practices yoga and kick-boxing.
Last medically reviewed on September 11, 2023
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