Are home STD tests accurate and reliable?
Are home STD tests accurate and reliable? The Theranos controversy in 2014 may have left consumers feeling concerned about whether at home STD tests provide accurate results. Here’s what we know.
At home STD tests are as accurate as those you could take in a doctors office, generally speaking, but it’s important to know that not all home STD test providers are the same, and testing experiences can vary for a number of reasons.
The Theranos controversy in 2014 may have left consumers feeling concerned about whether at home STD tests provide accurate results. Here’s what we know.
No medical tests are 100% accurate. False positives and false negatives can happen in any setting, whether it’s in the home or in a healthcare setting. Usually a healthcare provider will look at the bigger picture of your health to put all the jigsaw pieces into place.
Nowadays, with the use of at home health testing, it’s more convenient, accessible and often more cost effective to put those pieces of your health puzzle together from the comfort of home. What’s more, the majority of home health providers will offer follow up advice and treatment as part of their package should you require additional support.
It has been shown that at home STD testing has had a positive impact among the U.S. population, especially within younger demographics, in fact a 2018 research study comprising of over 202,000 participants across the USA, Australia and Denmark found that STD testing offering the self-collection of samples increased the overall uptake of STD testing services.
In a 2011 study which correctly predicted that at home health testing would become the norm, researchers sought to find out how acceptable consumers find taking an at home STD test, as well as their likely willingness to take a test from home. Through the study, it was found that a significant volume of people are accepting of and comfortable with self-collecting their own samples, if they are assured that the tests are highly accurate.
Within the study, it was found that; “Traditional STI screening requires a pelvic examination or urethral swab, which is an often cited barrier to screening, along with mistrust of the healthcare system, concerns about confidentiality, denial of STI risk and a sense of invulnerability.”
Overall, both studies have found that if consumers trust the accuracy of the test they are taking, they will be more likely to access STD testing services, but, let’s get to the point, are home STD tests accurate?
The majority of home STD tests are as accurate as those you would take in a clinical setting but it’s important to put the research in ahead of purchasing a test.
When choosing a home STD test, ensure that the tests are FDA approved, and the laboratories in use are FDA approved. Make sure to look out for buzzwords such as HIPAA compliant, CLIA certified and CPA accredited. These words mean that the laboratories used by the home health testing provider match the standards of those used in a clinical setting. This helps to ensure accuracy. HIPAA compliance ensures that your data is protected, which is important when you are looking for a reliable testing option.
Before getting into the accuracy of home STD tests, we should take a look at some buzzwords that help to define how accurate medical tests are.
Sensitivity refers to a test’s ability to correctly identify those with a particular disease (a true positive rate).
Specificity refers to a test’s ability to correctly identify those without the disease (a true negative rate).
If a test had a low sensitivity rate, it would mean that there’s a higher chance of receiving a false positive test result. If a test had a low specificity rate, it would mean that there is a higher chance of receiving a false negative result.
For your peace of mind, here’s a gentle reminder that no medical tests are 100% accurate, but the majority of the time, if instructions are followed closely, you will receive accurate results. If there are any flags that appear within your test results, home testing providers will usually organize a re-test.
The accuracy of an at home STD test will also depend on the sexually transmitted disease being tested. Here are the sensitivity and specificity rates for some of the most common STDs in the United States:
- Gonorrhea: 86% sensitivity and 97% specificity
- Syphilis: 85% sensitivity and 91% specificity
- Chlamydia: 86% sensitivity and 97% specificity
- Gardnerella: 89% sensitivity and 83% specificity
- Human papillomavirus: 87% sensitivity and 94% specificity
- Herpes simplex: 93% sensitivity and 99.9% specificity
- HIV (at-home, oral swab): 92% sensitivity and 99% specificity
- Trichomoniasis:82%–95% sensitivity and 97%–100% specificity
- Hepatitis B: 97% sensitivity and 99% specificity
- Ureaplasma: 96% sensitivity and 79% specificity
As mentioned, your medical history and circumstances will have an impact on the accuracy of your results. Two of the most common complications that may produce an incorrect result include incorrectly taking your sample or testing outside of the window when you would likely test positive, also known as the incubation period. Learn more about incubation periods in men and incubation periods in women.
Here are some other things to bear in mind when it comes to the accuracy of at home STD testing. Firstly, it’s essential to closely follow the instructions laid out by the at home STD test provider and be aware of:
- When is the best time to take the test;
- What are the best conditions under which you need to take the test (For example, are you hydrated enough to take a blood capillary test?);
- Shipping the test back to the lab on the correct day (How promptly do you need to mail your sample back to the lab?)
Written by Hannah Kingston on December 27, 2020
5 Best At-Home STD Test Kits in 2020 - STDwatch.com
Understanding medical tests: sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value - healthnewsreview.org
Gardnerella - www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Home HIV Testing: Good News but Not a Game Changer - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Trichomoniasis - cdc.gov
STD symptoms in men: Here’s everything you need to know - stdwatch.com
STD symptoms in women: Here’s everything you need to know - stdwatch.com
Which STD tests should I get? - cdc.gov
Home STD testing - letsgetchecked.com