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STDWatch
Dr. Patricia Shelton

Dec 02, 20227 min read

Can You Buy Over The Counter STD Tests?

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STDs are relatively common, and many STDs don’t cause symptoms in many people who are infected. Because of this, people who have sex outside of a mutually monogamous relationship may want to get tested from time to time, in order to ensure that they haven’t been infected. Although most STDs are treatable, many can cause serious long-term health problems if left untreated, so it’s important to know whether you’ve been infected. 

However, going to your doctor is a hassle, and some people feel embarrassed to discuss sex with their doctor. They may want a more private option for STD testing. An over the counter STD test offers the opportunity to test for STDs in the privacy of your own home. For some people, this will remove barriers and allow them to access the testing that they need to stay safe and healthy.

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Pros and cons of over the counter STD test kits

There are tradeoffs to anything, and over the counter STD testing is no exception. There are both benefits and downsides to using this method of testing. Some of the benefits include:

  • You’re in charge. Over the counter testing empowers you to decide which tests you want to have.
  • You don’t have to discuss potentially awkward or sensitive subjects with your own doctor, or even with another human.
  • It’s extremely convenient to get the testing you need.
  • The pricing is all up-front. You’ll know what your test will cost before you order it, with no worries about unexpected fees being added later. (By contrast, when you use health insurance for testing through a doctor’s office, you may not be able to find out how much you’ll owe until afterwards.) 

There are also some downsides to doing things this way. These include:

  • You have to decide which tests to order on your own. This requires you to do some research to learn about different STDs.
  • If a blood sample is needed for your test, then you’ll need to take this sample yourself. It’s not complicated, but some people find it a bit uncomfortable.
  • Over the counter STD tests are not always available in every state. State laws affect the availability of these tests, and certain tests may not be available where you live.
  • If you test positive, then you’ll need an appointment with a healthcare provider to discuss treatment. Some home testing services will offer you an appointment by telemedicine, and they may be able to call in a prescription to your local pharmacy or even mail the medication to your home. However, if the over the counter STD testing option that you choose doesn’t offer this service, then you’ll have to visit a doctor to seek treatment if you do test positive.

Does insurance cover an over the counter STD test?

Different insurance plans cover different things, and it can be frustrating trying to figure out what your plan covers. Usually, at least some STD testing at your doctor will be covered by insurance – although not always, and not for every type of test. Additionally, because of co-pays and deductibles, you may end up paying most or all of the cost of your test, even if it’s covered under your policy.

With home STD testing, you most commonly need to pay out of pocket. Many over the counter STD testing services don’t accept insurance. This is actually for a few different reasons, including to protect your privacy. Many people share their insurance policy with others in their family. Whenever you use your insurance policy, a document called an explanation of benefits (EOB) is sent that details what medical services were performed. Although the results are not included on the EOB, the fact that the test was performed is, which could reveal the fact that you got tested to others in your family. 

In addition, for any tests that you use insurance to pay for, the results may be reported to your insurance company, and potentially to other companies that they may contract with. Some people are concerned about how this information could be used. Paying for your own test therefore may help to protect your privacy in multiple ways.

Where to buy an over the counter STD test

In general, you won’t find over the counter STD tests on the shelves at your local pharmacy. Although certain tests may be stocked in some cases, you may find it difficult to locate exactly the tests that you want.

However, there are home testing services available that allow you to order the tests yourself online. An over the counter STD testing kit will be delivered to your home in discreet packaging. You take your samples yourself, and mail them back to the lab to be tested. You’ll then get your results online in a few days. 

There are many different options for over the counter STD tests. We generally recommend a few different ones. All of these use certified laboratories to test samples, which helps to ensure the accuracy of the results.

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Sources

LetsGetChecked. https://www.letsgetchecked.com/. Accessed 29 Sep 2022.

myLAB Box. https://www.mylabbox.com/. Accessed 29 Sep 2022.

Health Testing Centers. https://www.healthtestingcenters.com/. Accessed 29 Sep 2022.

Screening Recommendations and Considerations Referenced in Treatment Guidelines and Original Sources. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/screening-recommendations.htm. Accessed 29 Sep 2022.


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