Plus, an ob-gyn weighs in on how the DIY kit compares to a doctor's visit.
It’s difficult enough to fit in a trip to see the doctor. But when it's time for an STD test, many of us really dread it. We're hesitant to get tested in a timely manner (or at all), even when we know we should. It’s not fun to take the test, and it’s not fun to talk about. TBH, it’s terrifying to think of coming out at the end with a positive result.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by at-home testing service myLAB Box, 65% of respondents said that fear was the reason they hadn’t gotten tested in several years. And while 70% of people expressed concern about contracting an STD within one month of having sex with a new partner, a third of people waited several months before getting tested.
That’s where myLAB Box comes in. Its goal is to make it possible to take an STD test in the comfort of your own home with a do-it-yourself kit.
Here’s how it works: You order a little box filled with everything you need—a test swab and tube, a finger prick for the blood sample, and Band-Aids and wipes. After following the simple instructions, you send your results off to their lab and receive your test results in a matter of days.
Step 1: Collect a sample *down there*
You’ll find a swab nestled in the box. Give your designated lady parts a rub for about 30 seconds and remove. Snap the swab in half at the line down the middle, then place the top part in the test tube.
Step 2: Take a blood sample
Ouch! Just kidding, it’s really not that bad. There will be a little lancet tool about the size of your thumb. Remove the cap, have the test card close by and ready, and then give your thumb a little pinch. Fill up the five dots on the card provided, and bandage yourself up. Or, if you’re a total wuss like me, have a friend or roommate ready with a Band-Aid to speed up the process.
Step 3: Pack up your materials (you're almost done!)
One of the best parts of this process was how easy it was to send my test to the lab. Before you pack it all up, make sure that you filled out all of the information sheets enclosed. Shipping is already paid for, so all you have to do is seal up your samples and drop it in the nearest mailbox.
Step 4: Receive your test results
The most surprising thing about all of this was how quickly my results came back. Two days after I sent my test in the mail, my results were delivered right to my inbox. No snail mail required in return!
So, how scary was it?
When I told my friends I was trying this kit out for the sake of journalism, their immediate reaction was, Isn’t that nerve-wracking? But truth be told, it’s such a quick process, you really don’t even have the time to worry much about it. It only took two days to get my results back, and I was able to do the test in the privacy of my own home. And while your stomach may do a little somersault when you hover the cursor over your results, knowing where you stand in your sexual health is more important than any fear you may have.
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That being said, you shouldn’t completely replace a visit to the doctor with an at-home test each time. While it’s a good starting point, an eventual trip to the doctor offers a more surefire way to garner healthy, accurate results. Not to mention, there are good reasons to see an ob-gyn for a routine visit anyway, like cancer screenings or to address any abnormalities with periods.
“I think screening at home is great because I think maybe it will reduce barriers to entry to getting tested,” says Veronica Ades, MD, MPH, clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Health’s department of obstetrics and gynecology.
“Many STDs are asymptomatic, and so women often do not feel anything but do in fact have an infection. It's important if you're sexually active, especially if you're not using condoms or if you're not sure of the STD status of your partner, to get screened regularly,” Dr. Ades says.
She did, however, voice a few concerns, one of the biggest being that at-home testers may not be equipped to accurately interpret their own results. "Some people are very savvy and understand the results and know the difference between diseases, but that is not true for everybody,” she says. “They may have a really serious emotional reaction to a positive test, especially when they don't know what the implications of that positive test are." Then, they'll have to consult a professional anyway, she adds. "They need to go find a doctor and say, ‘My test was positive, what does this mean?’”
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Dr. Ades also points out that at-home testing could delay treatment after a diagnosis, which is especially troubling if the infection is one that needs to be treated immediately, like chlamydia. "They may have a positive test and then have a delay before they can get into a doctor, whereas if they had gone to the doctor and gotten the testing, the doctor is obligated to communicate with the patient and get them in quickly for treatment.”
Bottom line: Don’t be scared to get tested, and don’t put it off. The sooner the better—it’ll only help your health!