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By: RSC Editorial Team

June 5, 2023

At-Home STD Test vs. STD Testing Clinic: What Are the Main Differences?

From online school to telehealth appointments, you can do almost everything at home nowadays. Here at STD Rapid Testing, we stress the importance of regular STD testing, even if that means taking an at-home STD test. Not everyone feels comfortable going to their doctor about this problem. There are also the issues of cost, convenience, and confidentiality. 

Home tests offer convenience, but lab tests tend to have better accuracy. While most at-home kits test for a limited number of STDs, lab-based tests include a 10-panel test. They have the benefit of a doctor’s medical support and more exact testing kits. This additional supervision also gives you better access to education and treatment.

Deciding whether to take a test at home or at a doctor’s office is a personal decision, but it should be an informed one. Let’s explore the differences between at-home tests and test at STD clinics.

All About STD Testing

STD testing involves sample collection and lab testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Most of the time, this process can be quick and painless. However, you do need to go out of your way to get it — your typical doctor’s visit doesn’t cover it. 

So when do you know it’s time to get tested? Regular STD testing is a healthy habit for everyone, but especially for individuals at risk. This list includes:

  • Men who have sex with other men
  • People with multiple partners
  • People who have unprotected sex often
  • Women under the age of 25
  • Pregnant people

While these people are most at risk, anyone who has sex can contract an STD. You might consider getting tested for STDs if you’re entering a new relationship, if your partner cheated on you, or if you’re planning on having unprotected sex.

STD testing is especially important if you are experiencing symptoms of STDs. While STD symptoms vary depending on the type, there are some telltale signs. Pain during sex, painful urination, abnormal discharge, itching, and sores or bumps are all signs that should get an STD test. 

You may be worried about the test results, which is understandable. But left untreated, STDs can cause severe, permanent damage. It’s better to know so you can treat it! You can even take a rapid STD test at a Rapid STD Testing clinic to get your results faster.

Types of STD Tests

When you take an STD test, part of the process involves deciding what you need to test for. You might make this decision based on risk factors (women under 25 should consider a chlamydia test) or based on symptoms you’re having (sores and bumps may hint to herpes). There are several types of STD tests and methods to consider.

  • A simple urine test involves peeing into a cup and using your urine sample which acts as a gonorrhea test or trichomoniasis test. 
  • Alternatively, there are several types of swab tests: an oral test, a sore or blister swab test, and a genital swab test. Each of these tests takes the swab sample from the infected area and tests for HPV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes. 

If you require an HIV, herpes, and syphilis test, you’ll need to go to a lab to give a blood sample for a blood test or undergo a lumbar puncture.

STD Testing Methods

The two methods of STD testing are at-home testing and clinic testing.

If you’re looking for the most private, convenient option, at-home testing might work for you. Before you make that decision, it’s important to have an understanding of at-home testing, what it entails, and the accuracy of the results. 

If you choose to take an at-home test, you don’t need to consult a physician first. Your kit will arrive between five to eight business days from your order date. It will include:

  • Instructions
  • A sample container or swab
  • An envelope address to a lab to send the results in

Whether you’re peeing in a cup, swabbing your cheek, or pricking your finger — follow the instructions closely. The biggest risk of at-home tests is the quality of the sample. When you have your sample, you just need to send it in and wait! 

How long does it take to know if you have an STD? Usually, a few days. Once the lab has your results, you can access them on a private online account. 

The biggest advantage of home testing is convenience. With at-home STD testing, there are no doctors to consult or probing questions. Depending on your insurance, this method can be less expensive, too. Privacy is another huge benefit of at-home STD tests since you’re only interacting with the lab’s online testing platform.

The other method of testing is clinic testing. This method generally takes more time and effort but can offer better STD test accuracy. It also usually offers a wider variety of testing. 

If you opt for clinic testing, you’ll need to make an appointment at the clinic. At the appointment, the doctor will likely ask you questions about your sexual history and the symptoms you’re experiencing. Then, they’ll take the sample. If you’re wondering, “how long does an STD test take,” once you’re in the room, it should take no longer than 5 to 10 minutes. 

From there, the process is very similar to the at-home tests: you wait, then you get your results online or by phone. 

Are At-Home STD Tests Accurate? 

The short answer is: yes, most of the time, at-home STD tests are accurate! Doctors design at-home tests to be easy to use, and your sample goes to a professional lab for analysis. The accuracy of tests comes down to the quality of the sample. 

You can take extra measures to ensure the accuracy of your at-home test by collecting your sample carefully and double-checking that a CLIA-certified lab is receiving it.

Dealing With a Positive Diagnosis

You waited anxiously for your test result, and when it finally came back, it was what you feared: a positive result. 

First, take a deep breath and know that everything will be okay. Whether you get a positive test result or negative test result, the important thing is that you know. While it may not seem like it at the moment, knowing is the best thing you can do for an STD diagnosis. It means you can take action, rather than let it go untreated and eventually have more severe consequences. 

After you take that deep breath, seek treatment. Yes — even if you don’t have symptoms now! Left untreated, you could develop a more serious reaction to the STD later on. 

The good news is that you have treatment options. Antibiotics treat bacterial STDs like gonorrhea, while antiviral therapy can treat viral STDs like hepatitis. You can see your doctor for a recommended treatment plan.

While all STDs are treatable to some degree, not all of them are curable. Viral STD treatments can relieve your symptoms, but you should stay aware that you will always have it. 

While you’re receiving your treatment, alert any current or past sexual partners you may have infected. This can be an uncomfortable conversation, but your partner deserves to know from you rather than find out later on. Untreated STDs can become serious health risks. It’s important for any of your partners to test as soon as possible. 

Take care of yourself. It’s okay to take time to recover from what is likely a stressful experience. Don’t rush into having sex you’re not ready for. When you are ready, remember to be conscious of using protection with your partner.

Finally, follow up! Even after treatment, continue to be careful during sex. As long as you’re sexually active, it’s smart to test regularly! Just because you received treatment doesn’t mean you can’t test positive again. 

Testing regularly is essential to maintaining a healthy sex life. The good news is you have options! At-home STD tests make it easier than ever before to test regularly in the privacy of your own home. Same-day STD testing is another great option for anyone who hates the wait or needs to know their results right away. 

Take Your Test So You Can Rest

Can you test yourself for an STD at home? The answer is yes! Deciding which method of STD testing — an at-home test or a test in a clinic — you want to use is a personal choice. There is no easy answer; it’s something you need to evaluate and decide what is best for you. Now, you have all the information you need to make that choice.

If you're ready to know your STD status, visit a Rapid STD Testing center to schedule your test.

Medically Reviewed By DR. HARSHI DHINGRA,Pathologist (MD) on May 07,2024

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By: RSC Editorial Team
June 5, 2023

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