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Having sex can be fun AF. Going to a clinic for STI testing? Not so much. Thankfully, you may be able to skip right over the awkward doc visits and get the answers you need fast by testing yourself at home.

But the question on everyone’s mind is: Are at-home STI tests really reliable? Yes, as long as they meet the right criteria. Our guide will walk you through those criteria, the best tests, and your most common questions about STIs and STDs.

Just like your favorite dating site, the at-home STI test market is a sea of possibilities. To cut through the duds, we dug into the world of STI testing and reached out to sexual health expert and nurse practitioner Kimberly Breneman, CNM, for tips to make sure we recommended only the best.

Certifications and approvals

One of the most important certifications to look for on an at-home STI test is a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certification. This means the lab has been proven to provide accurate, timely, and reliable test results to patients. Every test we recommend uses CLIA-certified labs.

Collection method

Breneman says there are two main types of at-home testing:

  • Self-collection. You collect the specimen at home (or wherever, really) and send it to a lab to be tested.
  • Lab collection. You order your tests online and go to a lab (rather than a doctor’s office) to collect the specimen.

Self-collection adds a layer of privacy to the experience, which can be super important to some people. Lab collection tends to be quicker and can also be a better route for those who are totally uninterested in peeing in a cup at home, pricking their own fingers, or self-swabbing.

We included both collection methods, because every person and situation is different, and having options is 🔥🔥🔥.

Privacy

All our picks are HIPAA-compliant, which means the company takes care to protect sensitive patient information from being disclosed without consent.

We also included some options that go a step further to protect your privacy with unmarked packaging and discreet billing.

Post-test care

While figuring out if you have an STI is fine and dandy, it doesn’t help much if you have no idea what to do next. A good STI testing company will have an option for a post-test consultation with a doctor (often free of charge!) and even free medication for some easier-to-treat infections.

Best post-test care

LetsGetChecked

Price$99–$349
Certified labFDA-approved and cleared tests, CLIA-certified & CAP-accredited labs
Typeself-collection (urine and/or blood sample)
Tests forchlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, syphilis, gardnerella, hepatitis B and C, HIV, mycoplasma, ureaplasma, herpes 1 and 2
Results2–5 days
Privacyunmarked packaging, HIPAA-compliant
Post-test carefree consultation with positive result, treatment shipped directly to you at no extra cost for some infections (not available in some states)

On top of being able to easily order a LetsGetChecked test online, you can also grab a kit in most drugstores throughout the country.

The kits offered range from “The Simple 2” — testing for only chlamydia and gonorrhea — to “The Complete 8,” which tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, HIV, and syphilis plus other bacterial infections that can be transmitted via sex like mycoplasma, ureaplasma, and gardnerella (aka bacterial vaginosis). You can also get individual kits for herpes and hepatitis B and C.

LetsGetChecked is best known for its attentive aftercare. If you get a positive result, a nurse or doc will give you a call and answer all your questions. They may also be able to send medication (for chlamydia, trichomoniasis, gardnerella, mycoplasma, and ureaplasma) free of charge directly to your door, depending on the state you live in.

This is a nice touch, because even though there’s literally nothing to be embarrassed about, nobody looks forward to having that convo face-to-face in a crowded pharmacy.

Best for repeated testing

Everlywell

Price$49–$149
Certified labCLIA-certified labs
Typeself-collection (finger prick & urine sample, vaginal swab)
Tests forchlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis, trichomoniasis
Resultsless than a week
Privacyvery discreet, HIPAA-compliant
Post-test carefree consultation with positive result, prescriptions available for some infections

Everlywell’s full kit lets you discreetly test for six of the most common STIs — trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis C, syphilis, and HIV — via a self-collection method. All you need to do is use the included gear to provide a urine and blood sample (folks with a vagina will also have to provide a vaginal swab).

The kit comes with all the collection materials and instructions you need, and the company sends you a prepaid label to ship all your stuff back to them. Your results will be sent to you digitally with the option to print them out.

The best part? Everlywell has a pretty sweet membership program in which you can receive one test of your choice each month for $24.99, plus 20 percent off any additional tests you want to order. This kind of program is an amazing way to stay on top of your sexual health without constant visits to the doc.

Plus, if you don’t think you’ll need to test for STIs some months, you can select from 14 of Everlywell’s other tests, like metabolism, thyroid, or cholesterol tests.

If you get a positive result, they’ll connect you with independent board certified docs in your state to talk about treatment options and answer questions at no additional cost.

Best for privacy

Priority STD

Price$59–$198
Certified labFDA-approved tests, CLIA-certified labs
Typelab collection (urine and/or blood sample)
Tests forchlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B and C, herpes 1 and 2, syphilis, HIV 1 and 2, HIV RNA early detection, herpes early detection
Resultsexpedited results available in 1–2 days
Privacynever mails anything to your home, bills under a generic name, HIPAA-compliant
Post-test care$65 consultation with positive result, prescriptions available for some infections

Priority STD is serious about keeping it discreet. The company will never mail you anything, and the charge will show up on your credit card statement as “SFHT.” The tests are also reasonably priced, and you’ll get your results in 1 to 2 days.

The drawback? If you have a positive result, it costs $65 for a consult with a doctor to get medication called into your pharmacy. Since other companies offer this service for free, this isn’t the best deal. BUT if privacy is your biggest concern, Priority STD is a solid pick.

Best for fast results

STDcheck

Price$24–$239
Certified labFDA-approved and cleared tests, CLIA-certified labs
Typelab collection (urine and/or blood sample)
Tests forchlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, herpes, hepatitis A, B, and C, HIV RNA early detection
Resultssame-day testing in lab, 1–2 days to receive results
Privacyresults not reported to insurance, HIPAA-compliant
Post-test carefree consultation with positive result, prescriptions available for some infections

STDcheck’s 10-panel test screens for the 10 most common STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV (types 1 and 2), herpes (types 1 and 2), and hepatitis A, B, and C. And if you’re concerned about a potential recent HIV exposure, they offer the only FDA-approved HIV RNA early detection kit, which can detect antibodies in as little as 9 to 11 days after exposure.

STDcheck offers a bunch of different ways to pay, including cryptocurrency (trendy much??) and a “pay later” option. But if you do choose to pay after your test, you’ll have to pay before the company will release your results.

Because there’s no waiting for a kit to be mailed back and forth, STDcheck provides super speedy results. All you need to do is place your order online and visit a lab near you whenever you can — you can even go the same day. Reviewers say the lab visit is really quick and discreet (an average of 10 minutes!) and you get results within 1 to 2 days.

Best for couples

myLAB Box

Price$75–$499
Certified labCLIA-certified labs
Typeself-collection (urine and/or blood sample; rectal, genital, and throat swabs)
Tests forchlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B and C, HIV, herpes type 2, syphilis, mycoplasma, HPV
Results2-day shipping, results in 1–5 days
Privacyunmarked packaging, HIPAA-compliant
Post-test carefree consultation with positive result, prescriptions available for some infections

myLAB Box has a huge selection of testing options and isn’t afraid to have a little fun with it. Offering options like “Boomer Box” for older adults, the “V-Box” for people with mysterious vaginal discharge, and the “Love Box” for couples, they’ve managed to make shopping for STI kits a little less like, well, shopping for STI kits.

All kits come with easy instructions, return shipping envelopes, and free consultations for positive results. The biggest downside is that they’re a little pricey — so it might be cheaper to go to your doc if you have insurance. But if you have a hunny (or potential hunny) you want to get tested with, myLAB Box has you covered.

Best value

HealthLabs

Price$99–$299
Certified labFDA-approved and -cleared tests, CLIA-certified labs
Typelab collection (urine and/or blood sample)
Tests forchlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, syphilis, herpes type 1 and 2, hepatitis A, B, and C, HIV, and HIV RNA early detection
Resultssame-day testing, results in 1–2 days
PrivacyHIPAA-compliant
Post-test carefree consultation to discuss results, treatment available for some infections for $95

HealthLabs has a ton of different kinds of tests on its site. Once you’ve picked the one you want, you can book your lab appointment — often the same day — and get results within 1 to 2 days.

The company has a lot of positive reviews, especially on the fast turnaround time. It takes privacy seriously (even making sure your credit card statement won’t give any information to potential snoopers) and strictly abides by HIPAA.

The best part about HealthLabs is its 110 percent price match guarantee. If you find a lower price for the exact same test you’ve ordered, the company will match the competitor’s price and even give you a 10 percent discount on top of that. No shady upcharges here. 🙅

Best for using insurance

Nurx

Price$150–$220
Certified labCLIA-certified labs
Typeself-collection (urine and/or blood sample)
Tests forchlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, hepatitis C, syphilis, HIV
Resultswithin 7 days after samples arrive at the lab
Privacydiscreet packaging, HIPAA-compliant
Post-test care$15 unlimited communication with medical team, prescriptions available for some infections

Nurx is a telehealth company that offers a wide range of services, from birth control to STI testing and just about everything in between. Because the company is basically an online doctor, you’ll have to cough up all your personal deets, including a photo ID.

It’s a great option if you have insurance but don’t love going to the doc or you’re just too busy to do the whole appointment thing. The company not only accepts insurance but also prescribes medication and offers generous follow-up care.

But if you just want STI test results FAST while remaining incognito, this may not be the best option.

Whether you’re experiencing symptoms, have had a potential recent exposure, or just want to do a regular check-in (major props), here’s the quick checklist for choosing the best test for you.

Obvi, not having to leave your house is a huge plus of at-home STI testing. But there are some other pros and cons to think about too.

What’s the difference between an STI and an STD?

The terms “STI” and “STD” are often used interchangeably to refer to the very common infections that can spread from person to person through sexual contact such as vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

When the two terms are not used interchangeably, STI can can refer to the infection a person has with a specific bacteria, virus, or parasite, while STD can refer to the physical symptoms that can occur from an infection. One example of this is when an HPV infection leads to genital warts.

It’s not always obvious that you have an STI, because it’s super common not to show any symptoms. But STIs can become serious health issues, so it’s important to stay on top of testing even if you don’t have symptoms or aren’t aware of a recent exposure.

What are the most common STIs?

The most common STIs in America are HPV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. In fact, according to the CDC, HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active adults will get the virus at some point in their lives if they don’t get the HPV vaccine.

It’s important to note that most HPV strains don’t lead to any health issues and go away on their own, but some can lead to genital warts or cervical cancer.

Getting tested regularly for STIs (in addition to getting routine care like Pap smears if you have a cervix) can help you stay on top of your health and identify any issues caused by HPV so you can seek out treatment when possible.

When should I see a doc instead of using an at-home test?

We recommend using only at-home tests that give you the option of speaking with a medical professional if you get a positive result. But in some cases, it might make more sense to get tested at a doctor’s office instead of buying an at-home test.

Breneman says it’s a good idea to see a doctor rather than use an at-home test if you’re experiencing active symptoms and want to get specific questions answered. Seeing a doctor might also make more sense if you’ve been exposed to an STI that at-home test companies don’t provide treatment for.

It’s also important to see a doctor if you have experienced sexual violence or been exposed to HIV. Seeing a doctor in these situations can help you access extra resources as quickly as possible, like medication to prevent infection after an HIV exposure.

How often should I get tested for STIs?

Breneman recommends getting tested once a year as a baseline for sexually active peeps. If you have more than one partner, share needles, don’t always use a condom, aren’t monogamous, or have reason to believe your partner isn’t monogamous, it’s a good idea to get tested every 3 to 6 months.

But keep in mind that if you’re ever experiencing symptoms, you should get tested right away. The sooner you get tested, the sooner you can start treatment.

Will insurance cover my STI tests?

Most at-home testing kits aren’t covered by insurance. To use insurance, you’ll have to go through a telemedicine service like Nurx. Other companies may accept FSA/HSA payment.

Can I trust at-home STI test results?

In general, you can expect an in-office test or a home-to-lab test to be more accurate than a self-collected test. But a 2015 review that looked at the accuracy of self-collected versus physician-collected chlamydia and gonorrhea tests concluded that self-collected tests are a good alternative for those who don’t have the option of clinical testing or don’t want to undergo clinical examination.

Keep in mind that false negatives and false positives can occur with any STI test. Make sure you’re following the at-home specimen collection instructions carefully to ensure you get an adequate sample and avoid potential contamination.

What do I do if I test positive?

If you test positive for an STI, it’s important to talk with a medical professional to discuss your results and potential treatment options. Many at-home testing companies provide consultations with doctors or nurses and even free medication for certain infections, but you can also make an appointment with your doc to create a care plan.

It’s also important to reach out to any previous or current partners to let them know they should get tested so they can seek out treatment too.

Getting tested regularly for STIs is a really important part of maintaining good health. At-home STI testing kits are a reliable, convenient, and discreet way to stay on top of it — a huge win if paper gowns and “How many partners do you have?” convos aren’t your jam.

Whether you choose to visit a lab or go the self-swab/pee-in-a-cup/finger-prick route, make sure the company you choose has the right approvals and credentials, takes privacy seriously, and offers post-test care so you can get the best bang for your buck.