STDs: Should You Test at Home?

An estimated 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea occur each year in the U.S., making sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) a major public health concern. Close to half of all cases occur in young people between 15 and 24 and, when left untreated or treated late, grave physical and psychological consequences can result.

Many STDs may have such minor symptoms that a person may not even realize that he's infected, yet he can transmit the infection to someone else. STDs take a huge economic toll on the country; it's estimated that direct medical costs of STDs reach $13 billion a year.

In many cases, young people don't seek testing because of the cost or because they are embarrassed. In some states, it's now possible to get an at-home testing kit for certain STDs. But these testing kits may not be right for you.

If you're considering using an at-home diagnostic test to determine if you have a sexually transmitted disease, you'll want to discuss it with your health care professional first.

"If you decide to use an at-home kit, you'll need to check with your doctor," says Jill Rabin, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. 

Even if you use such a kit, it should never be a substitute for a regular gynecological checkup, Rabin cautions. 

The downside of an at-home kit? There's no counseling or followup by a professional with an at-home testing kit. Nor is data collected for public health purposes.

For individuals who are having oral and anal sex, the kits might not pick up on the presence of an STD, says Dustin Kerrone, LMFT, director of the Sexual Health Program in the Health Services section of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles. "We don't tell people not to use them, but it is important that people understand that they are fairly limited," he explains.

And, he adds, there can be false positives.

As for how often to get tested for an STD, it really depends upon whether you're monogamous or have many sexual partners. "If you are in a mutually monogamous relationship, you probably don't need to be tested as often," Rabin says.

Regardless of how an individual learns he has an STD, it's important to get treated promptly, Kerrone says. "Most STDs are easy to treat," he says. "Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are all easily treated with medication."   


"Improving home testing programs for STDs." 7 July 2012. The California Report. KQED Radio.

"Resource Guide-STDs." American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists."

"I Want the Kit"