Testing for STDs is important. If you’re using an at home STD test or going into the clinic to get tested, we commend you for being on top of your sexual health. And yes, everyone who is sexually active should get tested.
The State of STDs in the US and World:
Why? The CDC’s annual report on sexually transmitted diseases showed that STDs in the US have increased for the fifth consecutive year, reaching an all-time high across three of the most commonly reported STDs (gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis).
STD testing for men, women, and transgender men and women have resulted in nearly:
- 1.8 million new chlamydia cases,
- over 500,000 gonorrhea cases,
- and north of 100,000 new syphilis cases.
And these are only the reported cases. The CDC estimates over 20 million new STDs in the US each year. WHO estimates more than 1 million new curable sexually transmitted infections every day worldwide. However, this article outlines the differences between at home STD test and going into the clinic to get tested
At home STD test:
Self testing is not as daunting as it seems. Ash sends you instructions with the testing kit that covers all the steps you’ll need to take, tailored to your sexual activity.
An at home STD test means…
- First, you don’t have to explain to any other real-life people why you are there
- Second, you don’t have to wait for the doctor/nurse/phlebotomist to be ready to see you
- Third, you don’t have to be shamed for being there more than once a month
- Fourth, you don’t have to run into any friends, neighbors, colleagues in the clinic
- Fith, you don’t put yourself at risk for catching the flu, COVID, or any other infection while waiting in the clinic
The process for at home STD testing
And the process for collecting your own samples is actually really easy. Your kit may include the following based on your sexual activity and genitalia.
To test your urine:
We send you a cup to pee in (beware there is no lid for the cup as we don’t have you send the whole cup back). We also send you a pipette (throw back to middle school science class :D) to take a tiny bit of this urine to then transfer it to the collection tube. The collection tube has a solution already inside of the tube – do not pour this out. You close the collection tube, write your date of birth and day of collection on it and stick the urine label to the tube. Put it all back into a biohazard bag (also provided) and send it back to the lab in pre-paid packaging.
To test your rectum, vagina, and/or throat for gonorrhea and chlamydia:
We send you anywhere from one to three swabs to swab the appropriate area for collection. There will be detailed instructions included in the kit for each collection site. The collection tube has a solution already inside of the tube – do not pour this out. You take the swab and put the tip into the tube and bend the swab against the edge of the tube and break off the swab along the serrated line. You then close the collection tube, write your date of birth and day of collection on it and stick the appropriate label to the tube. Put it all back into a biohazard bag (also provided) and send it back to the lab in pre-paid packaging.
To test your blood for HIV 1 & 2, and Syphilis:
We send you a number of instruments to help you collect blood from your fingertips and help our lab determine the results. You start by cleaning your hands thoroughly under warm water to clean them and warm them to make collection easier. You then take the lancets provided and draw blood. The collection consists of a blood card for HIV and anti-bodies of syphilis (anti-bodies indicates that you were likely infected with syphilis at some time in the past). We also collect a microtainer (AKA extremely small tube) for active cases of syphilis. The instructions for collecting blood are included in the kit and provide a step by step process. It takes approximately 5 minutes to complete the blood collection.
In-clinic STD testing:
Testing for STDs at the doctor’s office often calls for some awkward moments. Especially if you don’t identify as an entirely cis het person. Healthcare providers do so much for us (we truly appreciate y’all, especially in these unprecedented times), but like in any other field, there is room for improvement. More inclusive and empathetic care can go a long way in encouraging and empowering patients to seek care.
Getting tested in person at the clinic goes down like this…
- Make an appointment or walk-in to an urgent care (no appointment needed clinic.
- Travel to clininc, and let the front desk person know you’re there and why you’re there.
- Fill in some type of onboarding forms, past medical history, insurance etc.
- Next, wait to be called while sitting in the waiting room with other real life people.
- In take by nurse who asks why you’re there?
- After letting them know it’s for an STI screening – they will go over your medical and sexual history… Where you’ll answer questions like…
- Likely the first question will be – how many sexual partners have you had in the last 6 months? 12 months? Do you sleep with men, women, or both?
- How often do you use protection? Sometimes? never?
- Have you ever had an STI?
- Then, the nurse will then send in the doctor who will likely review the same questions and then send you to the phlebotomist to collect your blood and ask you to self-collect urine and swabs based on your sexual activity.
- Timing on results and method of notifying of your results vary clinic to clinic.
*This process is how some in-person clinics run STI testing – other in-person experiences may vary*
Going into the clinic vs an at home std test…
With in-person testing and an at home STD test you still get all the same information about your STD status. There is very little nuances with the end game of how you get tested.
However, with an at home STD test, you can be sure that there is no judgment, shame, or stigma as to why you’re getting tested. No need to take time off work and go to the clinic. Overall, it is likely an easier and more convenient experience and with Ash you can order a customized kit based on your sexual activity to test for HIV, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia.