STI Testing: A Breakdown of Tests You Can Take at Home
Sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing is important for anyone who's sexually active. And if you can't make it to the clinic, at-home tests provide another convenient option.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are arguably the most stigmatized set of diseases—despite being some of the most universal.
How Common Are STIs?
Around half of sexually active people will get an STI at some point. (Ponder that for a quick minute before you rush to any judgment.) Fortunately, thanks to the almighty powers of science, almost all STIs are treatable and manageable.
If you’re having sex, here are some statistics to think about:
- According to The STI Project, somewhere between 56 and 65 million people in the U.S. are living with an incurable sexually transmitted disease (STD).
- The World Health Organization (WHO) states more than one million new STIs happen every single day.
- In the U.S., 110 million people—that’s about one-third of the population—have an STD at any given time. (Mind you, these are the documented cases—so you can imagine how many STIs are left undiagnosed and unreported. And even then, not all diagnoses are required to be reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including herpes and HPV/genital warts.
What Are the Most Popular Myths About STI Status?
When it comes to STIs, the social stigma is often more damaging than the infection itself. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone who tests negative is labeled “clean.” If being STI-free makes you “clean,” that implies having one makes you “dirty”—which, to be frank, is a stupid extension of purity language and really needs to stop. So, please, for the love all perfectly fuckable humans, remove the word “clean” from your STD vocabulary—stat.
Read: Healing from Purity Culture
“Saying ‘I'm clean’ is very often misunderstood, yet widely used,” says Nicole Prause, Ph.D., founder of Liberos. “What people typically mean who say ‘I'm clean’ is that they haven't seen any symptoms that they believe are sexually transmitted diseases on their genitals. This is, of course, not any sort of reassurance.”
It doesn't matter how careful you are—unless you're not having sex, there’s always a risk of getting an STI. STIs don’t discriminate. This is why such a large number of people have them, at least at some point. They're having sex!
How Do I Know if I Should Get Tested?
If you need some tips and conversation starters to talk with a partner about sexual health, the National Coalition for Sexual Health’s (NCSH) Five Action Steps to Good Health is an excellent place to start.
Because so many STIs are asymptomatic, it’s important to get tested regularly. Here are some guidelines for STI testing based on your unique circumstances:
If You’re Single and Celibate
Even if you aren't having sex right now, it's a good idea to get tested if you've had sex before but have never been tested.
It is recommended everyone get tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) at least once in their lives; but you should do so more frequently if you're having unprotected sex with more than one partner.
If You’re Single and Having Casual Sex
If you're having casual sex, it's a good idea to get tested for STIs every three to six months.
STIs have varying incubation periods: the span between when you're first exposed to an STI and when your body begins forming antibodies to fight it. Some STIs can be in your system for a couple months before they can be detected, while others will show up after a few days.
If You’re Starting a New Relationship
Finding out a new partner's status—and sharing your own—should be a sexual health priority in blossoming sexual relationships. If the relationship becomes monogamous, a yearly check-up should suffice.
Read: Got an STI? Here's How, When and Why You Should Disclose That
If You’re Trying to Get Pregnant
If you are trying to conceive, testing is recommended so you have a complete understanding of any STIs that could impact conception or be passed on to your baby.
If You’re in an Open Relationship and Using Barrier Methods
Even while using barrier methods for protection, people with multiple sexual partners are at risk of infection because it is possible to contract some STIs through skin-to-skin contact.
Plus, no barrier method is 100% safe—it's still possible to transmit STIs like herpes, syphilis, pubic lice and HPV while using them. Oral sex is another potential mode of transmission.
Read: Okay, but Do We Really Need to Use Protection During Oral Sex?
If You've Previously Had an STI and Have Completed Treatment
It's still a good idea to get tested one more time to make sure your STI was fully treated.
How Can I Test Myself for STIs At Home?
You can always get STI testing at a local clinic or your regular doctor's office. But if that's not an option, or if you want to skip the hassle of booking an appointment, there's an increasing number of at-home testing kits to make the process more convenient.
Plus, with at-home testing kits, you can test when you feel like it in the privacy of your home. Most of these tests take only a few minutes and require saliva, urine, a swab or a prick of blood (depending on what you're testing for). Still, if symptoms persist despite a negative at-home test, contact a healthcare provider right away.
Here are six STI tests you can do at home:
With myLAB Box, users order the lab-certified tests they want (or a combo pack) and receive them by mail. Tests are quick and easy; they take less than five minutes to complete. And unlike many STI testing kits—which are unregulated—myLAB Box uses FDA-approved screening methods.
Tests For: HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis and extragenital complaints.
Results: Take one to five days. Users are notified via email.
Cost: A five-panel home STD test that screens for the highest risk factors starts at $189; individual tests start at $89. FSA/HAS cards are accepted.
With EverlyWell, you test yourself at home and then a board-certified physician reviews your results.
Tests For: Its six-panel STD test tests for chlamydia, hepatitis C, syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), HIV and trichomoniasis.
Results: Take five business days. Users are notified via email.
Cost: A seven-test STD test is $149.