At-home medical testing provides you details about your well being, proper at your fingertips, with out the necessity to ever set foot into a health care provider’s workplace. One of many newest developments on this development is at-home testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), that are bacterial, viral or parasitic infections that may be handed on by way of sexual contact.
Historically, STI testing includes seeing a health care provider in individual. There, they’ll typically take samples like urine or vaginal fluids and ship them for testing. However, although STIs are exceedingly widespread — 2.4 million STI cases had been reported in the US in 2020 alone — there’s nonetheless stigma hooked up. For some, privateness could also be a part of the attraction of at-home testing. “It’s extra discreet, and it’s off the report,” mentioned Dr. Robyn Faye, board-certified OB-GYN and member of HealthyWomen’s Ladies’s Well being Advisory Council.
As well as, Covid-19-related backlogs and dwindling healthcare provider (HCP) numbers have made it tougher to see an HCP in individual. So it’s not shocking that at-home testing for STIs has increased significantly during the pandemic.
STI charges in the US
Whereas teenagers and younger adults have the very best STI charges in the US, anybody who engages in sexual contact can get an STI. In truth, getting old can improve your threat for STIs as a result of vaginal thinning, which is widespread with menopause, may cause microtearing that may make it simpler for micro organism and viruses to enter your bloodstream.
Findings additionally present STI charges are higher in ladies in comparison with males, and ladies are more likely to expertise severe well being points from STIs, together with infertility, continual ache and being pregnant issues.
Moreover, Black and Hispanic folks have increased STI charges than white folks, despite the fact that they symbolize solely 12% of the U.S. inhabitants. The CDC explains that this distinction is probably going the results of a scarcity of entry to sexual healthcare.
Quick access to testing comes with just a few downsides
Whenever you order STI take a look at kits on-line, they’ll ship proper to your entrance door in discreet packaging, offering you with every thing you have to accumulate samples by yourself. After gathering samples, you’ll ship them over to the model’s affiliated lab. It’s a easy, no-fuss course of.
Along with comfort and privateness, one other advantage of at-home STI testing is that it helps enhance entry to testing for infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, herpes, syphilis and HIV for these residing in communities with restricted healthcare providers.
However there are some caveats. For instance, whereas at-home testing is pretty correct, there’s at all times room for error because of self-collection, Faye mentioned.
At-home testing additionally comes with just a few different drawbacks, reminiscent of:
- Not realizing when you need to get examined. Testing proper after suspected publicity, for instance, gained’t at all times internet you an correct end result. Faye additionally identified that many individuals with STIs are sometimes asymptomatic, making common screening important.
- Not realizing what to check for. “[People] come into the workplace and say they’ve a yeast an infection once they have trichomoniasis, and so they produce other issues unsuitable with them,” Faye mentioned. Until you’re paying for an STI panel, which incorporates testing for a number of infections — and prices extra — you would possibly take a look at for the unsuitable factor.
- No therapy. Whereas some at-home testing manufacturers provide treatment with a constructive end result, it’s not a common perk. Should you obtain a constructive end result and the at-home testing service doesn’t present any follow-up or prescription, it’s essential to see an HCP.
- Issue decoding outcomes. HCPs are geared up to accurately interpret your STI testing outcomes, one thing not everybody could do correctly. Although some on-line take a look at manufacturers will join you with a medical skilled in case you’ve examined constructive, not all will.
- Value. Whereas pricing for single testing could also be extra reasonably priced, complete STI panels can generally value upwards of $400 with out insurance coverage. So whereas at-home testing could also be extra handy and straightforward to entry bodily talking, it’s cost-prohibitive for many individuals.
Complete healthcare and improved entry: A balancing act
Anybody who’s symptomatic ought to see a medical skilled and keep away from utilizing at-home assessments, Faye urged. However in case you’re excited by at-home assessments for asymptomatic testing, go for manufacturers affiliated with CLIA-certified labs that additionally provide doctor follow-up.
Whereas at-home assessments are nice for individuals who don’t have easy accessibility to a healthcare supplier or who could really feel uncomfortable speaking about intercourse, there could also be a lacking ingredient of patient-doctor interplay, Faye famous.
In-person appointments additionally permit HCPS to speak to folks about protected intercourse, reply questions that crop up randomly and schedule follow-up testing. HCPs may gently ask folks about their lives and companions, leaving the door open for folks to report cases of home or sexual abuse. With out this in-person interplay, some folks could fall by way of the cracks, Faye advised.
However at-home STI testing does have its place. For busy, well-informed individuals who need to take cost of their sexual well being and know to observe up with their HCP in the event that they’re constructive, at-home testing generally is a handy and dependable option to display screen for STIs.