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SEXUAL HEALTH

STI Testing: A Breakdown of Tests You Can Take at Home

by RYN PFEUFFER
Published: JANUARY 26, 2022
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Reviewed by Dr. Sunny Rodgers
on January 17, 2022
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.

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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.

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

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“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.

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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:

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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:

1. myLAB Box

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.

2. EverlyWell

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.

3. OraQuick® In-Home HIV Test

OraQuick is the first FDA-approved oral swab at-home test for HIV-1 and HIV-2. It’s widely available at several pharmacies or via Amazon and uses an oral swab—not blood—to test. OraQuick also offers a 24/7 support hotline.

Tests For: HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibodies (not the virus itself).

Results: Take 20 minutes at home.

Cost: Around $40, depending on the retailer, or $39 at OraQuick.com.

4. LetsGetChecked

Testing with LetsGetChecked is super simple: order your test, collect your sample, and use the prepaid shipping label to send it back. The labs LetsGetChecked uses are Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) Trusted Source-approved and College of American Pathologists (CAP)-accredited.

Tests For: Customers can test for two, five or eight STIs. The most comprehensive test, Complete 8, tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV (-1, -2 and P24 antigen), syphilis, mycoplasma, ureaplasma, trichomoniasis and gardnerella (bacterial vaginosis).

Results: Online results within two to five days.

(Pro tip: If you want same-day results, LetsGetChecked recommends collecting and returning the sample before 10 a.m. your local time on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.)

Cost: Complete 8 costs $249; a two-test panel costs $99.

5. Health Testing Centers

Although Health Testing Centers is known primarily for in-person lab testing, it also offers an at-home test kit. If you choose this option, you will receive your test kit in the mail within five to seven business days.

Tests For: The seven-panel test checks for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes type two (HSV-2), HIV, hepatitis C (HCV), syphilis, and trichomoniasis. You can also test for chlamydia and gonorrhea by site—meaning anal, oral or genital.

Results: Most results take one to two days; but some take longer. You'll get your results via email.

Cost: A seven-panel test costs $199; individual tests start at $89.

6. Nurx

Testing with Nurx is easy. All you have to do is share some information about your health history and they’ll mail your STI home test kit in discreet packaging. Then, collect your samples at home and mail them back to their partner lab. Shipping is free and some insurance is accepted. However, it's not available in all 50 states.

Tests For: Nurx's Basics Covered Kit checks for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

Results: Within seven business days.

Cost: $150 out-of-pocket or $75 plus applicable co-pays or deductible with insurance.

The Bottom Line

Get tested for STIs.

If you're having sex, you should get tested. Screening is important because STIs don’t always have warning signs or symptoms—meaning you could have something and unknowingly pass it on to someone else. Also, when left untreated, some STIs can cause all sorts of health havoc, like cancer or infertility.

Read: We Pass Things Around: Things to Know About STIs in 2021

The takeaway? Don’t count on STI symptoms to let you know when something is wrong. Regular testing is the best safety precaution.

Want to learn more? Here are some more resources on STDs:


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Photo for Ryn Pfeuffer
Ryn Pfeuffer

Ryn Pfeuffer is a versatile print and digital writer specializing in sex, lifestyle, and relationship topics. Over the past two decades, her work has appeared in more than 100 media outlets including Marie Claire, Playboy, Refinery29, The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, WIRED, and Thrillist.

She adopted a pseudonym and was AVN’s (Adult Video Network) first female porn reviewer – while penning children’s books at the same time. More recently, she is the author of 101 Ways to Rock Online Dating (2019). She lives in Seattle with her rescue dog, Mimi. You can find her on Twitter @rynpfeuffer or IG @ryn_says


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