Which STD Test Should You Choose: At-Home or Lab?
There are a few ways to get tested for STDs. There is the most known way of going to the doctor’s office, but, with the technological advancement society has made, it is now possible to receive medical treatment with just the internet. With the increase of these new options, you should be aware of the pros and cons of each!
The most widely-known, yet increasingly outdated, method is to go to your doctor’s office. Once there, you have a consultation, schedule another appointment for testing, go home, return to provide the sample, go home again, then return to discuss results and treatment. Lest we forget each time you visit, you have to spend time in the waiting room, avoiding eye contact with others, and continuing to have the same awkward conversation with the nurses and doctor. I can easily bet this isn’t your ideal way of spending your free time!
Fortunately, with the rise in telehealth companies, or health care that is conducted through remote means (over the phone or internet), there are options for people who are seeking easy, affordable, efficient, and private STD testing.
The advancements in the digital world have welcomed two other ways for people to test for STDs:
- At-Home STD Testing
- Direct to Lab STD Testing
You may feel inclined to opt for an at-home test if you’re under the impression that it is more private. The hope is that modern medicine has made-at-home STD testing as effective as lab testing, but with the added benefit of being at home. If the internet allows you to receive a college degree, obtain clothes, and get groceries, why not also receive health services from the comfort of your home? After all, home is home and labs sound like cold, sterile places full of total strangers.
On the other hand, there’s lab testing. While lab testing isn’t new, the public’s access to lab testing without a doctor’s visit has recently become easier thanks to telehealth companies like STDcheck.com.
Presumably, you’re reading this to get a better idea of which test is your best option. So, without further delay, below are comparisons of the processes, reliability, benefits, and drawbacks of at-home STD testing and lab STD testing.
How do the tests work?
At-Home STD Testing
The at-home testing steps are:
- Figure out which brand you want to purchase.
- Purchase a kit to be delivered to your home.
- The kit is delivered within 5-8 business days.
- Follow the instructions in the kit to perform the tasks yourself.
- Return the kit with samples contained. The brand will receive the sample within 3-5 days from the time you mail it.
- Once samples are received, they are tested.
- Your results will be posted online to your private account.
Many at-home testing brands charge more than labs, yet test for fewer STDs. The higher price is possibly due to the price of shipping and handling.
Below are the tests typically included in their kits, most of which are 8-panel tests or less:
- Blood Test: HIV I, HIV II, hepatitis C, herpes II, syphilis
- Urine Test: chlamydia, gonorrhea, trich
STDcheck.com’s steps are:
- Order a test online.
- Take your order form from your email to a test center close to you and provide the sample.
- Receive the results in 1-2 days on your private online account.
The actual trip to the test center shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes. If you’re pressed for time and want to make sure you stay right on schedule, you can make an appointment, although it’s not necessary.
It’s easy to choose a lab near you or if you’re in a large city, we have created individual city pages that list all the clinics around you like our Los Angeles page.
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After providing a sample at one of the 4,500 labs available nationwide, a professional technician runs all the tests requested. Once the test panel is complete, the results are uploaded to your private online account.
The following are the tests included in STDcheck.com’s
- Blood Test: HIV I, HIV II, herpes I, herpes II, hepatitis A, B, C, and syphilis
- Urine Test: chlamydia, gonorrhea, trich*
Which STD Test is Less Expensive?
In comparison to doctor visits and insurance, both at-home and lab STD testing are more affordable.
Yet STDcheck.com is still less expensive than at-home kits. Plus, you get more tests done (with higher accuracy) and at a lower rate.
Which Method of Testing is More Private?
Lab testing doesn’t take much time at all, and since it doesn’t, there’s a much lower risk of anyone either noticing your absence or finding out you tested. The process and results remain on a need-to-know basis.
At-home is private, but it incurs a risk. Chances are someone may stumble upon your kit in the trash, someone living with you could get the mail, someone may walk in on you while taking the test, etc.
Both are also private in terms of insurance. Your insurance company will not get a record of the test or the results.
Which One Is More Accurate?
Labs are highly accurate and CLIA-certified. The tests are performed by a professional whose living is based on conducting lab tests. Their experience avoids the chances of a mistake occurring. They allow your mind to relax and be assured that you are precisely aware of your status.
Some at-home tests can show false-negatives as often as 1 in 12 times. False-negatives are dangerous because you may go about your life believing you’re STD free, have unprotected sex with other partners and unknowingly spread the STD further. Not only that, but if you consider yourself healthy and knowledgeable of the state of your body, you might run into a wall of confusion and pain when late-stage symptoms begin to appear. Some of these symptoms are flu-like symptoms, furthering your ignorance of the STD because you most likely will incorrectly self-diagnose.
Want To Know Results ASAP?
For lab testing, you can order the test and then immediately go to the lab to provide your samples. Your results will be available within 24-48 hours of testing.
At home STD testing takes longer since you have to receive the package, extract the samples properly, mail the samples back, wait for them to test it, and then wait to notified of your results. This takes almost 2 weeks longer than lab testing.
Which One’s Process is Easier and Less Time-Consuming?
The process of lab testing is simpler since all you have to do is go to the collection center for five minutes, and then you’re done.
For at-home testing, you need to understand the instructions, prick your finger, deal with your urine, and, depending on the brand, repeat this process for every disease you want to be checked.
What if I test positive for an STD?
In the case of a positive test result, STDcheck.com will connect you with a doctor that will be able to prescribe you medication and get you on your way to healing. STDcheck.com will even send the prescription to your pharmacy for you.
Some at-home STD kits encourage you to find a doctor and take your results to them. Very few assist in matching you with the right doctor; at most they may provide you with counseling.
The results are in! Lab testing is quicker, easier, and CLIA-certified! It provides you with privacy, accuracy, and connects you with doctors. It might sound a little biased, but we urge you to do the research if you feel inclined to! We’re confident you’ll reach the same conclusion.
If you don’t decide to heed our warning, that’s fine! We are glad you are taking care of your sexual health, regardless, but be aware of the disadvantages that at-home STD testing has. We urge you to think carefully about your decision and to understand that you might not be getting the most bang out for your buck!
Before You Go
Whichever route you choose, first you should make sure that you’re in the right time frame since the encounter to give the infection time to incubate and reveal itself in a test or else you may get a false-negative.
For more detailed information on time frames for each STD, check out this post: How Soon Can I Get Tested for STDs After Unprotected Sex?
You’ve done the research, now you’re ready to test! Click here for our 10-test panel!
Medically Reviewed by J. Frank Martin JR., MD on November 8, 2019
Author: Alexa Amador
Alexa graduated from a university in Atlanta with a B.A. in English and joined the STDcheck.com team in 2018. Before joining, she marketed and developed her own blog while working freelance for leading businesses. Having a robust skill set of research, writing, and editing has kept her busy and driven throughout both her academic and professional careers. Alexa became entangled in the sexual health business after coming from not only "abstinence-only" schooling but where the reproductive anatomy chapter was literally torn from her textbook. She realized how irresponsible it is for people to encourage ignorance about sexual health, especially to younger audiences, and so her passion for becoming part of the solution and educating the masses was born. When not writing for Exposed, Alexa enjoys taking vacations in the mountains with a good book and her dog, Nova.