A gloved medical professional's hand holding test tubes and a urine sample cup in front of a light blue background

Is At-Home STD Testing Accurate?

By Simona Byler
June 13, 2024

Did you know that over half of people in the U.S. will have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in their lifetime? (1) So if you’re worried you might have an STI, know that sooo many of us understand what you’re going through! And while all sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing used to be done at a doctor’s office, plenty of at-home STD testing options now exist.

At-home STD testing offers a convenient, private, and sometimes less nerve-wracking alternative to traditional clinical visits. But how reliable are these tests, and are they a good option for you? Let’s dive into the world of at-home STD testing, exploring its accuracy, how it works, and why it's important to get tested.

What is STD testing?

Alright, first things first–we’re going to get clear on some basics about STDs and STIs. While the terms are usually used interchangeably, STDs are caused by STIs. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are contagious conditions that happen when bacteria, viruses, or parasites enter the body, usually through sexual activity.

The majority of STIs have no symptoms. (2) If an STI becomes symptomatic, it can be classified as an STD–but not all STDs show symptoms! That’s why getting tested is so important for yourself and your partners. STD testing is the only way to be sure if you have an STD or not. Traditional STD testing happens at a doctor’s office, but more at-home options are becoming available–more on that in a bit!

Is it important to get tested for STDs?

The short answer: YES! But we’re here to give you the long answer, with all the juicy details, to explain why it’s important to get tested for STDs.

In January 2024, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) stated that over 2.5 million cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia were reported in the U.S. in 2022. (3) The most concerning data from the report showed that syphilis cases have increased by 80 percent in the past five years. This data accounts for all stages of syphilis cases, including congenital syphilis–which occurs when people pass the infection to their babies during pregnancy. So, with that data in mind, it’s clear that STIs should be a public health priority!

Besides the increase in reported infection cases, another reason to get tested is that many STIs can be asymptomatic and go unnoticed. That means that you might have an STI without even knowing it. Untreated STIs can cause complications with serious consequences, such as infertility, cervical cancer, or an increased susceptibility to HIV.

The only way to be sure you don’t have an STI is to test! And if you’d like to skip the doctor’s office, at-home STD tests are a great way to protect both your health and the health of your partners.

Who should get an STD test?

Some STIs can cause itching and burning in your genital area, but many times infections happen with no symptoms at all. If you think you’ve been exposed to an STI, the best thing to do is get tested!

So, should you get tested for STDs? Here’s what the CDC has to say:

  • All sexually active people between the ages of 13 and 64: Test for HIV at least once in your lifetime
  • Sexually active women under age 25: Test for gonorrhea and chlamydia once a year
  • Sexually active women over age 25: Test for gonorrhea and chlamydia once a year if you’ve had a new partner, multiple partners, or a partner with an STI
  • Pregnant people: Test for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C early in pregnancy and test for chlamydia and gonorrhea if you’re at risk of infection
  • Sexually active gay men, bisexual men, or other men who have sex with men: Test for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea every year or every three to six months if you’ve had multiple partners
  • People with risk factors for HIV: Test for HIV at least once a year if you have sex without a condom or dental dam, or if you share needles to inject drugs

There are plenty of other reasons why you might consider testing for STDs–starting a new relationship, having sex with multiple partners, or having unprotected sex, to name a few. And while you can always consult with a medical professional, at-home STD testing kits can offer you some quick and private results–without the waiting room.

Can I test for STDs at home?

We’ve dropped a few not-so-subtle hints thus far, and now it’s time to come clean! So, can you test for STDs at home? Yes! And, are at-home STD tests accurate? When taken correctly, also yes! Let’s dive into the details.

There are different types of at-home STD tests–so it’s important to understand which test you should choose. First off, some kits test for only one infection, while other kits screen for several. Understanding which STIs you’re most at risk for–depending on your age, sexual history, and sex assigned at birth–can help you decide on the at-home STD test that’s right for you.

At-home tests for STDs are still quite new, but they can give you information about many different infections. At-home tests commonly test for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, hepatitis C, and HIV–with some testing for syphilis and herpes. You can test for syphilis at home, but it’s considered less accurate because it might detect an old infection that is no longer active and doesn’t need treatment. Similarly, herpes tests are considered less accurate and can return false positive results. (4)

Some at-home STD tests offer medical guidance if your test comes back positive. This guidance can help you understand the next steps for treatment for your STI–either through a telehealth appointment or by recommending a local health professional to guide you.

How do at-home STD tests work?

If you’re interested in testing for STDs at home, you can pick up a test at a pharmacy, order one online through Wisp, or request one through your nearest Planned Parenthood health center. Each test will be a little different, but most will have you collect a blood sample from a finger prick, provide a urine sample, or both. Some kits may also ask for a vaginal swab, an anal swab, or a throat swab, depending on what infection is being tested.

Full disclosure: at-home STD tests don’t work like pregnancy tests! Most tests include a prepaid envelope for you to send your sample to a lab for analysis. Results are usually ready within a week, and each test will tell you how to access your results–usually through an app or a patient portal. The only rapid at-home STD test is an HIV test, which gives you results in about 20 minutes.

While it’s not fun to wait for results, the testing process does come with good news: accuracy. As long as you follow the test instructions and take your samples correctly, at-home STD tests should be as accurate as clinical tests, as they’re analyzed by a lab. Besides being accurate, testing for STDs at home is safe, affordable, convenient, and confidential.

Where can I get an STD test?

From Wisp! We'll send an at-home STD testing kit straight to your door with FREE delivery. Depending on where you live, you can also buy an STD test kit over the counter at a pharmacy, like CVS or Walgreens! If you go through your nearest Planned Parenthood health center, you’ll first go through an online telehealth appointment to make sure you get the best test for your situation.

Where can I get free STD testing?

At-home STD tests have a wide range of prices–from $10 to $250 without insurance. Prices depend on how comprehensive the test is, and if you receive any medical consultations after you receive your results. If you have health insurance, check to see if your plan covers at-home STD tests! Some tests are covered by flexible spending accounts (FSAs) or health savings accounts (HSAs).

If you want to get tested and you’re worried about cost, check with your local community health center or Planned Parenthood, as they give low-cost or free STD testing depending on your income.

What to do after a positive STD test result

If you receive a positive STD test result, don’t panic. It’s likely that you’ve already finished the hardest part of your journey–getting tested. Plus, know that you’re not alone! An estimated one in two sexually active people will get an STI in their lifetime. (1) Once you know your results, you can start taking the necessary steps to protect your health.

All STIs can be treated to manage the symptoms and reduce the chance of passing it on, and some STIs can be cured entirely. Seeking treatment early will help reduce the risk of further health complications–another reason why getting tested is so important. At Wisp, we want you to live your absolute best (sex) life. At-home STD tests can help you stay healthy and safe while you do just that.

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