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Had Unprotected Sex? Here’s How to Test for STIs at Home



So you had sex recently, and the condom broke. Or maybe, in the heat of the moment, you forgot protection altogether. Now things are feeling a little different down there, and you’re worried about a sexually transmitted infection (STI). What do you do?

A doctor’s appointment is a good idea, but it may not be an option. It can be tough to take time off work. If you don’t have health insurance, a clinic visit can be pricey. Plus, we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic. You could be worried about being around other people who might have COVID-19 and expose you to the virus.

Fortunately, you have another option. At-home STI testing can give you the answers you need without rearranging your schedule or emptying your wallet. Here’s what you need to know about testing from home.

When Should You Test?

First, you need to know STIs are extremely common. Every day, there are 1 million new cases worldwide. Plus, the CDC says there are 20 million new cases in the United States each year. That means if you have an STI, you’re not alone, and it’s not a reason to be embarrassed. You just need to get tested so you can get treatment and let your partner know.

Opt for a test if you’re feeling any burning or itching or see any bumps, sores, or blisters around your genitals. Any unusual, smelly vaginal discharge (or any discharge from the penis) should also make you consider whether you have an STI. It’s also time to take a test if it hurts to have sex or burns when you pee.

Keep in mind, though, that symptoms for some STIs might not pop up for weeks or months. So even if you haven’t started seeing these signs, it’s best to get tested if you’ve recently had unprotected sex.

What Types of Tests Are Available?

There are lots of STI tests that can detect numerous infections. You can find many of them on pharmacy shelves.

Don’t want to share your personal business with a store clerk? No worries. You can also order tests online to protect your privacy. The good news is, depending on where you get your test, you may not need health insurance.

Kits can test for genital herpes, chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV. Such kits can be particularly helpful if you live someplace rural, far from a doctor’s office. Depending on your results, they can offer telehealth services that connect you with a doctor for medical treatment and prescriptions.

How Do You Take the Test?

These tests are designed to be easy to complete. You’ll simply need to collect a sample. It can be a urine catch, a blood finger-prick, or a vaginal, anal, or oral swab.

Just be sure to follow the directions carefully. If you don’t, your results might not be accurate. That means you might not get the treatment you need.

Once you have your sample, you’ll mail it off to a certified lab. These are the same labs that analyze the tests you would take at the doctor’s office. So you can breathe easy and trust the results. In fact, one large study showed that at-home chlamydia and gonorrhea tests performed equally well as doctor-administered tests.

As noted, remember that any at-home STI test is only as good as the sample you provide. Read the test directions carefully and follow them closely. That way, you can be assured whatever result you receive will be the right one.

Are Rapid Tests the Same Thing as At-Home Tests?

The short answer is no. Rapid STI tests are like at-home pregnancy tests. They’re designed to give you results in around 30 minutes. That means you don’t have to send your sample off to a certified lab. It sounds convenient, but the kicker is that they’re not FDA-approved.

To be honest, the at-home tests that you send off to a lab aren’t FDA-approved, either (simply because it’s not legally required). However, the labs that analyze kits must show they’re compliant with federal law. Check the box to be sure a certified facility will evaluate your sample.

How Much Do Tests Cost?

The price tag for these tests depends on a few things. If you do have health insurance, your cost will likely be covered for the most part. Tests can be as low as $15. Without insurance, though, they’re a bit pricier.

Kits that test for three to four STIs might run you around $100. More thorough tests that can detect eight to nine different types of infections can cost up to $400. Fortunately, Planned Parenthood offers free or low-cost STI testing based on your income level. That makes it easier to get the tests you need that can protect both your and your partner’s sexual health.

Having unprotected sex can be scary — especially if you start seeing or feeling uncomfortable symptoms. Taking a test is key to getting any treatment you might need. At-home STI testing makes it easier to get your answer (and potentially relieve your worries). Knowing what to expect from at-home testing helps you figure out what’s going on in the privacy and comfort of your own home.



I'm Nikos Alepidis, blogger at motivirus. I'm passioned for all things related to motivation & personal development. My goal is to help and inspire people to become better.

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