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Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are common, especially in people aged 15–24 years. There are several low cost STI tests a person can perform in the comfort of their home. Additionally, certain local organizations may offer free or low cost testing.

A quick look at free or low cost home STI tests

STIs are common. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 1 in 5 people in the United States had an STI.

This article discusses what home STI testing is, how often a person should test, and where a person can go to find free or low cost STI testing.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

Home STI testing is similar to the testing a person receives in a doctor’s office or healthcare clinic. These tests screen for the presence of infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Learn more about the best at-home STI tests here.

To perform a test, a person collects their sample, which is usually a blood or swab sample, and then sends it off to a lab. Testing at home may be more convenient and private than testing in a clinic, and some companies offer care and advice if a person receives a positive test result.

While there may be some loss of accuracy when taking a home test, if a person follows the instructions on the test kit carefully, home test results are generally reliable. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that people call the company if they have any questions about collecting a sample.

Testing for STIs is important to prevent transmitting an infection to sexual partners.

Additionally, STIs can cause complications. For example, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and lead to infertility.

Pregnant people who have an STI can pass the infection to their infant during delivery. And certain infections can cause premature birth, low birth weight, or lung and kidney infections. Some STIs also increase the chance of miscarriage.

Not all STIs have symptoms. It is important for people to test regularly to ensure that they and their sexual partners receive any treatment necessary to protect their health.

Everyone should receive testing if they believe they are at risk of having contracted an STI or if they show symptoms of an STI.

Symptoms may include an unusual color, odorous discharge, or pain while urinating. However, people can have STIs without having symptoms and should receive testing if a sexual partner discloses that they have an infection. STI testing is more accurate after the infection is in the detection period.

Some populations should receive regular testing to minimize the risk of complications. We outline these groups in greater detail below.

Learn more about STI testing here.

Detection period

The following table describes how long after exposure STI tests generally start yielding reliable results:

Chlamydia2 weeks
Gonorrhea2 weeks
Syphilis3 months
Trichomoniasis1 month
Herpes4 months
Hepatitis B3–6 weeks
Hepatitis C6 months
HPV3 weeks to several months
HIV (mouth swab)3 months
HIV (blood test)6 weeks

How often should you test?

The CDC recommends that the following people receive testing:

What to test forHow often to test
People aged 13–64 yearsHIVat least once
People who are pregnant• HIV
• syphilis
• hepatitis B
• hepatitis C
• gonorrhea
• chlamydia
early pregnancy
Males who have sex with males• chlamydia
• gonorrhea
• syphilis
• HIV
• hepatitis C
• annually
• every 3–6 months, if they have several partners
• annually for hepatitis C, if they have HIV
Sexually active females under 25 years• gonorrhea
• chlamydia
annually
Sexually active females over 25 years• gonorrhea
• chlamydia
annually, if they have multiple partners or a partner with an STI
People who inject drugsHIVannually

While each company may have slightly different instructions, home STI tests generally require:

  • collecting samples, which may involve a finger prick blood test, genital swab, or urine collection
  • placing the samples in a prepaid envelope and sending them off to a lab
  • waiting several days for the test results

Companies will provide detailed instructions on how to collect a sample correctly. If a person finds it difficult to perform a finger prick test, they may wish to ask a friend or family member for help.

Some companies will also offer follow-up care and advice if a person receives a positive test result.

Types of results

Usually, home tests will return one of the following results:

  • Positive or detected: This means the lab has detected the presence of an STI in a person’s sample.
  • Negative or not detected: This means the test has not detected the presence of an STI.
  • Indeterminate: This may mean a person has not collected a sample correctly. People should contact the company for more advice if they receive this result.

How long do results take?

The length of time it takes a company to return results depends on the type of test a person takes and the company that offers it.

However, people can typically expect home STI test results around a week after the lab receives their samples.

Medical News Today chooses at-home tests that meet the following criteria:

  • Laboratories: Where possible, MNT will choose companies that process test samples in CLIA-certified labs. This means they follow state and federal regulations.
  • Budget: MNT chooses at-home tests that suit a wide range of budgets.
  • Privacy: MNT includes companies that offer robust and transparent privacy measures, such as data protection and discreet packaging.
  • Test result speed: MNT selects companies that inform customers of when they will receive their test results and whether they will receive them via email, app, or phone.
  • Further support: MNT will indicate whether a company offers further support, such as a follow-up phone consultation with a doctor to discuss test results.

Below are some lower-cost home STI tests available to purchase online.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best for ongoing medical support: Nurx

  • Price: $75 with insurance, $150–220 without
  • Packaging: discrete, with free shipping
  • Results time: 7 business days
  • Pros: provides ongoing medical support
  • Cons: expensive without insurance

This home STI testing service offers three different testing kits.

The Basics Covered Kit screens for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

The Healthy V Kit is a test for people with vaginas. It screens for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.

The Full Control Kit screens for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and hepatitis C.

The company charges a $15 fee, which includes 1 year’s worth of unlimited messaging with its medical team.

Learn more about Nurx here.

Best for the lowest price: Everlywell

  • Price: $49149
  • Packaging: discrete
  • Results time: within days
  • Pros: accepts FSA and HSA payments
  • Cons: does not accept insurance

Everlywell sells tests for specific STIs and offers panel tests.

It offers tests specifically for males and females. Both options screen for chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.

The company also offers a subscription service to make frequent testing more affordable.

Learn more about Everlywell here.

Best for free prescriptions: LetsGetChecked

  • Price: $99149
  • Packaging: discrete
  • Results time: 2–5 days
  • Pros: offers free prescriptions with positive results in 40 states
  • Cons: free prescriptions not available in 10 states

LetsGetChecked offers three STI testing kits.

The Simple 2 tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea. The Standard 5 tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, HIV, and syphilis.

The Complete 8 tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, HIV, syphilis, Gardnerella, mycoplasma, and ureaplasma.

In 40 states, if a person tests positive for chlamydia, trichomoniasis, Gardnerella, mycoplasma, or ureaplasma, the company will provide prescriptions at no extra charge.

Learn more about LetsGetChecked here.

Best for a selection of STI tests: MyLabBox

  • Price: $59–399
  • Packaging: discrete
  • Results time: 2–5 days
  • Pros: offers a broad range of STI test kits
  • Cons: full panels are more expensive than other options

This company offers 19 different kits for STI testing.

MyLabBox offers tests for single infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. These are the most affordable options the company provides.

Additionally, the company offers test kits specifically for sexual partners, older adults, and full panel tests.

Learn more about MyLabBox here.

Best for lab sample collection: PrioritySTD

  • Price: $59198
  • Packaging: none
  • Results time: 1–3 days
  • Pros: uses testing sites, which ensures that people provide acceptable samples
  • Cons: not as convenient as taking a sample at home

PrioritySTD does not offer at-home sample collection. Instead, people must go to one of the over 4,000 labs that partner with the company. All the centers comply with FDA regulations.

The company states that the entire process is discrete and anonymous.

PrioritySTD offers individual tests, a twin-panel for chlamydia and gonorrhea, and 10-panel tests that screen for a variety of STIs.

Best for fast results: STDcheck

  • Price: $45259
  • Packaging: none
  • Results time: most results are available in 1–2 days
  • Pros: offers a doctor consultation with a positive test result
  • Cons: requires visiting a testing center

People can order tests and view results on STDcheck’s website but will need to go to one of over 4,500 partnered testing centers to take a sample collection.

The company offers individual and panel tests for a range of STIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and hepatitis A, B, and C.

The following table compares the home STI tests in this article.

PricePackagingResults timeProsCons
Nurx$75 with insurance
$150–220 without
discrete7 business daysoffers ongoing medical supportexpensive without insurance
Everlywell$49–149discretewithin daysaccepts FSA and HSA paymentsdoes not accept insurance
LetsGetChecked$99–149discrete2–5 daysoffers free prescriptionsfree prescriptions not available in all states
MyLabBox$59–399discrete2–5 daysoffers a range of STI testsfull panels more expensive than other options
PrioritySTD$59–198none1–3 daysfeatures more accurate sample collectionnot as convenient as taking a sample at home
STDcheck$45–259none1–2 daysprovides doctor consultation with a positive resultrequires visiting testing centers

There are several organizations and locations that may offer free or low cost STI testing:

  • Planned Parenthood health centers: Planned Parenthood may offer lower-cost testing for people on lower incomes. Learn more here.
  • Community health centers: Community health centers may offer lower-cost testing for people on lower incomes. Learn more here.
  • Healthcare professionals: Most doctors offer STI testing. This may be an affordable option for people if their insurance covers the cost of the tests and any potential treatment.
  • Student centers: Student centers at colleges may offer low cost STI testing. People should view their college’s website for more information.
  • Local health departments: A person’s local health department may be able to offer information about where to find low cost STI testing near a person’s home.

People should consider contacting a healthcare professional or using an at-home STI test if they have sex without a barrier method, such as a condom, with someone who may have an STI.

Although many STIs do not cause symptoms, some people may notice:

  • discharge from the penis or vagina
  • painful urination
  • sores around the genitals that can be painful, painless, or itchy
  • rash
  • flu-like symptoms

Here we answer some common questions about STI testing.

Are at-home STI tests as accurate as testing at the doctor’s office?

The FDA states that home tests are reliable. However, there is room for error if a person collects a sample at home.

If a person believes their test result is not correct, they may wish to contact a healthcare professional for another test.

How do I know if I should get tested?

The CDC has general guidelines for when people should receive testing.

People who are sexually active or have more than one sexual partner and males who have sex with males are at higher risk of contracting STIs and should receive testing more regularly.

If a sexual partner discloses they have an STI, or if a person notices any symptoms of an STI, they should receive testing as soon as possible.

Are STI tests accurate outside of the optimal detection period?

While it is possible to detect STIs before or after the optimal detection period, the test may not be as accurate.

Healthcare professionals will advise people whether they need to wait to receive testing or whether they need testing at a later time.

What are the signs of an STI?

Some STIs do not have any symptoms. However, if a person experiences any of the following symptoms, they should receive testing:

  • unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
  • bumps or sores around the genitals, buttocks, and thighs
  • inflammation, swelling, pain, or itching around the genitals

At-home STI testing is a convenient and private way to screen for these infections. There are several companies that offer lower-cost STI testing online.

People can also use local resources to find free or low cost testing. Planned Parenthood, local community centers, and student centers may offer subsidized testing for people on lower incomes.