Anyone who is sexually active should take the time to test for sexually transmitted infections (STI), also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Many STDs can be asymptomatic for a long time, so a person may end up with an infection and not even know it for a while. The best way to check for an STD is through a test. There are currently many options for getting them: visiting a doctor, taking a test at home, or going to a clinic that specializes in this type of testing. When deciding between at-home and in-lab testing, there are plenty of important factors to consider.
Most tests will require blood and/or urine samples. If getting an at-home kit, you will first need to order it, follow steps to collect the needed samples, pack these samples in the kit’s containers, ship the samples, and then check for results online or through the mail. At a doctor’s office, you typically need to show up, have a professional collect samples from you, and then wait for a call with your results. Sometimes clinics and offices won’t automatically call you— “No news is good news”—but you can still directly ask for results, no matter if they are positive or negative.
Which type of test is more convenient will depend on what your priorities are for taking the test. To get a lab test, you typically have to make an appointment, take the time to go to an office or clinic, and then be able to take a phone call to get results. This tends to take up more time overall. However, at-home kits require more diligence and responsibility on your part, as you are the one who must carefully read instructions, collect samples, send the samples, and collect the results. If you feel more comfortable with a professional handling these responsibilities and workload, a lab test might be better.
A primary concern for anyone taking a test should be accuracy. Those who want the most accurate options should visit a healthcare professional and get their samples sent to s lab. There are more stringent requirements for lab tests, making them far more reliable. With an at-home kit, there may be more of a risk of a false negative. False negatives can occur due to user error and/or degraded samples, because you are the one who has to collect samples and send them through the mail. To make sure you get accurate results with an at-home kit, it may be a good idea to do more than one test.
Types of Tests
The types of STD kits that you can get will vary depending on where you live and the retailers in your location. Many of the at-home kits only test for common STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. Lab tests will be able to test for many more, as long as you specifically request them. This can help to ensure that you get a more accurate picture of your sexual health.
Getting this kind of test is a regular part of staying healthy, so there is no need to feel ashamed about requesting one. However, privacy can still be a concern for many people. Those who prefer privacy may find that an at-home test suits their privacy needs better, as they do not have to interact with any other people face to face, and they can collect their samples from the comfort of their homes. Keep in mind, though, that it can be a little more difficult to maintain secrecy for a test at home, since mail for the results and trash from the kit may be noticed by other housemates.
Speed of Results
For many STDs, finding out the results as soon as possible is essential. If you suspect that you have a severe and time-sensitive infection, you may want to select a lab because they may be able to rush your results. With at-home testing, you typically need to wait a bit longer to get the kit, ship the samples to the company, and wait for them to send results back.
The cost of a test may vary depending on whether or not you have insurance and how many you make. The base cost of a lab test is typically more than an at-home kit, but certain factors can make a lab test cheaper for some. Planned Parenthood and other clinics often offer reduced pricing for low-income patients, and many insurance companies will cover lab tests done through an in-network doctor or lab. Most insurance companies will not cover all the expenses of at home testing.
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Regardless of which option you pick, an STD test is an important part of maintaining your sexual health. With a regular test, you can be confident that you are clean or address an infection before it worsens or gets passed on to someone else. There are plenty of great options for testing, so you can easily find one that works for your needs.