About 110 million Americans have an STD at any given time, according to the , and about half of those people are under 25 years of age. Lack of education on safe sex is a big part of the problem, but young people are also afraid to get tested because they’re embarrassed.
Some are afraid they’ll see a familiar face in the waiting room. Others just don’t want their doctors knowing about their personal life.
At-home and private STD testing services are making it easier for people to know their status without feeling embarrassed. Here’s how they work:
Private STD Testing
If privacy is your main concern, there are confidential STD testing services that allow you to find out your status without your doctor, your insurance company or anyone else finding out.
Here’s how the process typically works:
- You order a test (or panel of tests) online
- You find a lab nearby
- You get tested at the lab
- You get your results in one to two days (on average)
How do these services keep your tests private and confidential?
“We follow HIPAA guidelines. HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was signed into law in 1996,” says , a company that offers confidential testing. “It covers lots of topics, but the ones that are germane to your dealings with us regard your privacy. There are a number of legal safeguards in place that guarantee the confidentiality of your results.”
Companies that follow the HIPPA guidelines are able to keep your testing and your results private. Some companies assign unique identifier numbers to customers, and that number is used when getting tested and receiving results. With this method, customers never have to share their name with the lab attendants and can retrieve their results in a confidential way.
In most cases, confidential STD testing services will offer free doctor consultations with one of their physicians if any tests come back positive. Consultations are usually over the phone, and in some cases, a prescription can be given to eliminate the extra step of having to see a general physician.
Private STD testing is often the preferred method because testing still takes place in a professional lab, but all personal information is kept private.
At-Home STD Testing
For those who would rather test in the privacy of their home, there are at-home testing kits available. These kits are convenient, but it’s important to remember that your sample will not be handled in the same way as it would if you were getting tested in a lab. For this reason, these tests aren’t nearly as reliable as those performed in a lab.
At-home testing kits can be purchased online. Most companies offer both single and panel (or multiple) tests.
Depending on the test, you may have to provide a urine, blood or saliva sample. All of the supplies needed to perform the test will be included in the kit. Instructions will also be included, which need to be followed carefully to preserve the integrity of the test and for accurate results.
At-home tests still require you to mail in your sample, which is run in a lab. Results are typically available in a few days.
Just like with private STD testing, most companies will connect you with a doctor if your results come back positive.
It’s important to note that at-home kits have a high false-positive rate. For this reason, experts recommend booking an appointment with your doctor for a second test if your test comes back positive.
What About False-Negative Tests?
Private STD testing is less likely to give you a false-negative or false-positive result because you are still getting testing in a lab setting.
At-home tests, on the other hand, may give you a false-negative result. If all of your tests came back negative but you’re experiencing abnormal symptoms, see your doctor to get a second test.
Confidential and at-home STD testing can help you know your status without the embarrassment of seeing your personal doctor and waiting in line at the local clinic. But before you commit to a testing service, make sure that you research the company and the quality of its tests and labs.