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If you’re worried that you have contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or infection (STI), know that you aren’t alone.

Many of these conditions — like chlamydia and gonorrhea, for example — are incredibly common.

Still, it’s normal to feel a little bit anxious about the test.

It may help to remember that all sexually active people should get regularly tested, regardless of whether they’re experiencing symptoms.

This includes anyone who has had oral, anal, or vaginal sex.

So if you’re reading this, you’ve already taken an important first step.

Here’s how to figure out what type of home test you need, which products to consider, and when to see a doctor in person.

Your situation Fully online test Home-to-lab test In-office test
testing out of curiosity X X X
testing after unprotected sex or a broken condom X X
experiencing unusual symptoms X
testing before or after a new partner X X
testing to confirm a prior infection has cleared X X
recent or current partner received a positive test X
want to stop using a condom with your current partner X X
haven’t had an in-office test in one or more years X X X

In general, traditional in-office tests and home-to-lab tests are more accurate than online-only tests.

Test accuracy varies a lot depending on the type of sample collected and the test detection method.

Most tests require a urine or blood sample, or a vaginal, rectal, or oral swab.

With both traditional in-office tests and home-to-lab tests, a trained healthcare professional collects the sample.

With online-only tests, you collect your own sample. As a result, you might have a higher chance of an inaccurate result:

  • A false positive occurs when someone who doesn’t have an STI or STD takes a test and receives a positive result.
  • A false negative occurs when someone who does have an STI or STD takes a test and receives a negative result.

A 2015 review evaluated the accuracy of self-collected versus physician-collected samples in tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea, two of the most common STIs.

The researchers considered samples collected by physicians as more likely to produce accurate test results than self-collected samples, although false results are still possible with physician-collected samples.

However, they also reported that certain types of self-collected samples are more likely to lead to accurate test results than others.

In chlamydia testing, for example, self-collected vaginal swabs led to a correct positive result 92 percent of the time and a correct negative result 98 percent of the time.

Urine tests for chlamydia were only slightly less effective, identifying a correct positive result 87 percent of the time and a correct negative result 99 percent of the time.

Penile urine tests for gonorrhea also produced highly accurate results, identifying a correct positive result 92 percent of the time and a correct negative result 99 percent of the time.

Here’s how to take an at-home test.

How to get the test

After you place your order online, a test kit will be delivered to your address. Most testing kits are discreet, although you may want to verify this with the company before purchasing.

Some pharmacies also sell at-home tests over the counter. If you want to avoid waiting for shipping, you can also check out the home test options at your local pharmacy.

How to take the test

The kit will come with everything you need to take the test. To do the test, you might have to fill a small tube of urine, prick your finger for a blood sample, or insert a swab into your vagina.

It’s important to carefully read the instructions provided and follow them as best you can. You should contact the company if you have any questions or concerns.

How to submit the test

Follow the instructions to label and pack your samples. Make sure you’ve filled in all of the information required. Most tests include prepaid shipping, so you can simply drop the package into the nearest mailbox.

How to get your results

Most at-home tests will send you your test results online within a few days.

Here’s how to take an online-to-lab test.

How to get the test

Before you purchase the test, locate the lab nearest you. Remember that you will need to visit the lab to take the test.

You can take a short survey to identify recommended test. Some websites ask you to enter your personal information or create an account to purchase the test.

After you purchase, you’ll receive a lab requisition form. You will need to show this form or provide some other unique identifier when you go to the testing center.

How to take the test

At the testing center, present your lab requisition form. You won’t be required to provide identification.

A healthcare professional, such as a nurse, will take the required sample. This might include a blood or urine sample, or an oral, rectal, or vaginal swab.

How to submit the test

Once you take the test, you don’t need to do anything else. The laboratory staff will ensure your samples are labeled and submitted.

How to get your results

Most online-to-lab tests offer access to the results online within a few days.

Most fully online and online-to-lab tests allow you to speak to a healthcare professional, either online or by phone, if you receive a positive result.

Keep in mind that you may still need to visit a doctor or other healthcare provider in person. In some cases, your provider might want you to take a second test to confirm the result.

It depends. If you receive a positive test result on the spot, your healthcare provider will likely discuss treatment options with you right away.

If test results aren’t immediately available, your provider will call you to discuss a positive result, offer treatment options, and make a follow-up appointment, if needed.

There are several benefits to fully online or online-to-lab testing, including:

More private. If you don’t want anyone to know you’re getting tested for an STI or STD, online options tend to offer more privacy.

Specific testing options. You can choose to test for a single STI or STD, or complete a full panel.

More accessible. If it’s difficult for you to access a doctor or other healthcare provider, fully online and online-to-lab tests are often a more accessible alternative.

Added convenience. Online options tend to take less time than visiting a doctor’s office or clinic.

Less stigma. If you’re worried about being judged, or having to talk about your sexual history, online options can help you avoid stigma.

(Sometimes) less costly. Depending on where you live and the healthcare options available to you, using an online test might cost less than making an appointment with your doctor.

Side-step insurance. Some online test providers don’t accept health insurance as a form of payment. As a result, your test results won’t be reported to your insurance provider or added to your medical records.

Some of the disadvantages of fully online and online-to-lab tests include:

Knowing what to get tested for. The best way to know which conditions you should test for is to talk to a healthcare professional.

Knowing when to get tested. Some tests aren’t as effective within a certain window after a potential exposure. A healthcare professional can help you understand when the best time to test is.

Interpreting the results. Although most online tests provide guidelines to interpret your results, misunderstandings happen.

No immediate treatment. After a positive result, it’s best to get treatment as soon as possible.

More costly. Online tests can be pricey, especially in areas where you might be able to get tested at a sexual health clinic for free.

Don’t accept insurance. If you have health insurance, you might find that some online tests don’t accept it as payment.

Less accurate. There’s a small chance that you’ll have to take another test, which could lead to added time and costs.

The products listed below are just a few of the at-home tests currently available.

Red-flag phrase: FDA-approved technology

This phrase can be a little misleading, as it doesn’t necessarily refer to the test itself. It could be a sign that the test hasn’t actually been FDA-approved. You should look for products that use FDA-approved tests.

LetsGetChecked

  • Certification: FDA-approved laboratory tests, CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited labs
  • Tests for: Chlamydia, gardnerella, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herpes simplex virus-1 and -2, HIV, HPV, mycoplasma, syphilis, trichomoniasis, ureaplasma
  • Result turnaround time: 2 to 5 days
  • Cost: $99 to $299
  • Physician support included: Yes — phone consultation with a healthcare professional after a positive test result
  • Other notes: Also available in Canada and Ireland

Shop on Amazon and LetsGetChecked.com.

STD Check

  • Certification: FDA-approved laboratory tests and CLIA-certified labs
  • Tests for: Chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herpes simplex virus-1 and -2, HIV, syphilis
  • Result turnaround time: 1 to 2 days
  • Cost: $24 to $349
  • Physician support included: Yes — phone consultation with a healthcare provider after a positive test result

Shop on STDcheck.com.

Personalabs

  • Certification: FDA-approved laboratory tests
  • Tests for: Chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herpes simplex virus-1 and -2, HIV, syphilis, trichomoniasis
  • Result turnaround time: 2 to 10 business days
  • Cost: $46 to $522
  • Physician support included: Yes — condition counseling and prescription when eligible
  • Other notes: Not currently available in New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island

Shop on Personalabs.com.

EverlyWell

  • Certification: FDA-approved laboratory tests and CLIA-certified labs
  • Tests for: Chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis C, herpes simplex virus-1 and -2, HIV, syphilis, trichomoniasis
  • Result turnaround time: 5 business days
  • Cost: $69 to $199
  • Physician support included: Yes — virtual consultation with a healthcare professional after a positive test result and prescription when eligible
  • Other notes: Not currently available in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Rhode Island

Shop on Amazon and EverlyWell.com.

myLAB Box

  • Certification: FDA-approved laboratory tests and CLIA-certified labs
  • Tests for: Chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herpes simplex virus-1 and -2, HPV, HIV, mycoplasma, syphilis, trichomoniasis
  • Result turnaround time: 2 to 8 days
  • Cost: $79 to $499
  • Physician support included: Yes — phone consultation with a healthcare provider after a positive test result

Shop on Amazon and myLABBox.com.

PrivateiDNA

  • Certification: FDA-approved laboratory tests and CLIA-certified labs
  • Tests for: Chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis C, herpes simplex virus-2, HIV, HPV, mycoplasma, syphilis, trichomoniasis, ureaplasma
  • Result turnaround time: 2 to 7 days
  • Cost: $68 to $298
  • Physician support included: No — free retest available after a positive result
  • Other notes: Not currently available in New York

Shop on PrivateiDNA.com.

PlushCare

  • Certification: Not specified
  • Tests for: Chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herpes simplex virus-1 and -2, HIV, HPV, syphilis
  • Result turnaround time: 3 to 5 business days
  • Cost: $45 to $199
  • Physician support included: Yes — healthcare provider consultation after positive result
  • Other notes: Currently available in 31 states

Shop on PlushCare.com.

Visiting a doctor or other healthcare provider is generally the most reliable way to know if you’ve contracted an STI or STD.

However, if it’s difficult for you to access a provider in person, online-only and home-to-lab tests may be a good option.