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By: Karen Terry

November 4, 2022

Over-the-Counter STD Test Accuracy: What You Need to Know

The cultural stigma surrounding STDs evokes feelings of shame and fear in many people, causing them to skip testing and treatment or avoid the subject altogether. The rise of at-home testing kits has made it easier than ever to stay informed about your sexual health, but what about these STD test's accuracy? Before you purchase a rapid STD test, collect a sample from the privacy of your home, and drop it off at a nearby lab for analysis, read on to learn how you can ensure STD test accuracy and what potential concerns come with this convenience.

How Accurate Are Home STD Tests?

So, how accurate are STD tests you can buy over the counter? With a home test, you collect the sample yourself, then send it off to a lab for analysis.

In 2015, a review found that at-home tests had a satisfactory rate of sensitivity and specificity, but it's important to choose a test provider that handles samples at a certified lab that follows cleanliness regulations.

How you collect the sample also determines STI test accuracy. There is room for error when an untrained person collects their own blood, urine, or swab.

Can STD tests be inaccurate, especially the ones administered away from a sterile lab setting? STD test accuracy depends on several factors including: 

  • A good kit with reliable equipment:  Most false-positive results come from a faulty test. Do your research to determine which test brands have high-quality swab collection equipment that deliver accurate results.
  • A properly collected sample: Follow the directions provided in the testing kit closely. Read them over before you start taking a sample. Wash your hands thoroughly before you begin the process. While it’s a rare occurrence, this eliminates the possibility of any contaminants on your skin making their way into the sample.
  • A clean lab environment: Proper lab regulation ensures that the tests show accurate results. Next, check on the test’s specificity and sensitivity rate. A higher rate percentile means a higher level of accuracy, so you're less likely to get a false positive or false negative.
  • Whether the appropriate window periods for each STD: Window periods are the days after exposure that allow the disease to register at detectable levels. If you take a test too soon after exposure, the test may show up negative due to an undetectable level of infection in the sample area or your body as a whole.

Once you have collected and stored the sample, mail it to the associated lab to complete the screening process.

What Kind of Over-the-Counter STD Test Should I Get?

The types of tests you should get depend on:

  • How much time has passed since you were exposed to an STD
  • What STIs you want to test for

Most health care providers suggest waiting until at least three months after suspected exposure to any STD. This allows enough time for the infection and your antibodies to build up to detectable levels in your, reducing the possibility of a false negative result.

When you send your sample off to a lab, ensure the lab setting is well-regulated like those associated with Rapid STD Testing. Unfortunately, some labs associated with kit providers do not always meet the required regulations, increasing the likelihood of sample contamination or mishandling during the lab tests. 

The type of sample required depends on what disease you want to test for. 

  • Urine tests generally screen for chlamydia and gonorrhea. 
  • Blood tests detect HIV, herpes, and syphilis. 
  • Swab tests screen for HPV, herpes, and gonorrhea, and chlamydia. 

When making a final decision, take your risk factors into account. Have you had multiple sexual partners since your last test? Did your condom break or were condoms not used during any of these encounters? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, you may want a more comprehensive screening.

Does your concern stem from a one-time encounter with an individual who has a current diagnosis? Are there specific STDs spreading in your locality to worry about? If you answered yes to these questions, test for the disease that you're most concerned about.

Advantages of Rapid STD Tests

Are STD tests accurate? When selected and used with care, yes, rapid STD tests provide an easily accessible and accurate way for everyone to keep their sexual health in check.

Affordable: Many people who do not have health insurance may struggle to pay to visit a health care provider for an STD screening. The out-of-pocket cost alone will cause people to avoid getting tested regularly.

Convenient: With an at-home test, you don't have to arrange transportation or attend an appointment. You have the peace and privacy of testing at home by yourself.

Accurate detection and early treatment: The more people participate in STD testing, the easier it is to keep STDs managed locally and globally. Doctors can treat most bacterial STDs when detected quickly, preventing future conditions like an inflammatory disease. Diagnosing STDs like HIV or chlamydia in the earlier stages changes the treatment and effects they have on your body while protecting future partners in the long run.

Rapid STD Testing offers many resources designed to make STD testing confidential, accessible, and affordable.  

Why You Need Confirmatory Testing

Whether your at-home STD test returns a positive or negative result, getting a confirmatory test will give you peace of mind.

How accurate are STI tests if you need confirmatory testing? Many STDs share similar symptoms or show no symptoms. Negative results for one STD only rule out that specific disease. Positive results raise red flags and deserve a closer look.

Despite at-home STD test accuracy, there is always room for error, which leads to false results. Confirmatory testing at an in-person STD clinic ensures that your initial at-home results are correct. There are many differences between an at-home STD test vs STD testing at a clinic with trained professionals.

Here are some accessible options for confirmatory testing:

  • A 10-panel STD test screens for the ten most common STDs, like HIV, hepatitis, herpes, syphilis, and chlamydia. Technicians collect samples from blood, urine, and genitals to send to a lab. It is highly accurate with minimal risk.
  • Same-day STD testing allows you to test for a specific disease and get results within two days.   
  • Rapid STD Testing also offers custom panels. Screen for your choice of STIs while taking your personal risk factors for different infections into account.

Once you get confirmatory results, you’ll know for sure what you’re dealing with. A healthcare professional can then direct you to a treatment option that works best for you.

Find a Lab Near You for Confidential, Convenient Results

Stop stressing about STD test accuracy and start living life again. When you need fast, accurate results, skip the over-the-counter test and visit a Rapid STD Testing clinic. With over 2,500 testing centers nationwide, you can find a location near you, choose the tests you need, and let our experienced staff handle the test. Schedule your test today and receive results in one to three business days.

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By: Karen Terry
November 4, 2022

With a profound passion for making intricate medical information accessible to all, John possesses a unique ability to simplify complex concepts without sacrificing accuracy or depth. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of various healthcare fields, John is well-versed in the latest research and advancements. However, what truly sets him apart is his remarkable talent for distilling this wealth of knowledge into engaging, reader-friendly content.