While STI at-home test kits are one of the best screening tools for STDs, their reliability has always been a subject of debate. Is STI at-home test kits actually reliable for accurate STI screening?
The simple answer is that STI at-home test kits are not 100% accurate. However, no diagnostic tool for HIV or any other disease for that matter is 100% accurate. A diagnostic or a screening test's reliability depends on its sensitivity and specificity. The higher the sensitivity and specificity of a diagnostic tool, the more reliable it is. Most STI at-home test kits return accurate results about 90% of the time, which is astonishingly accurate when compared with many other diagnostic tools for STDs.
While not all at-home STI kits are equally reliable, there are some test kits that return accurate results consistently. Moreover, there are always a few things that you can do to increase the reliability of the home STI kit that you are using.
ARE STI AT-HOME TEST KITS RELIABLE?
As mentioned before, at-home STI kits are not 100% reliable. No at-home STI test kit will return accurate results all the time. There might even be a problem with the consistency of the test as well. However, it is important to understand that no diagnostic tool for any disease is 100% reliable.
A diagnostic test's reliability depends on two major factors: the test's sensitivity and specificity. Sensitivity is the measure of a test's ability is able to pick up the true positive cases of any given disease. Specificity, on the other hand, is the measure of how good a diagnostic tool is at weeding out the false positive cases of a disease.
When it comes to calculating the reliability of a diagnostic tool, sensitivity and specificity play huge roles. However, it is important to understand that no diagnostic test will have 100% sensitivity and specificity because of several reasons. Therefore, even a highly reliable diagnostic test will fail every once in a while, to detect a positive case for a given disease.
So, if STI at-home test kits are not 100% reliable, should they even be used? The answer is yes because any diagnostic test with a reliability percentage above 90% is statistically accurate.
You can also increase the reliability of at-home STI test kits by following these tips:
Use the STI test kit at home only after the incubation period. The Incubation period of a disease is the time it takes for the virus to first enter the body and for the immune response to get activated. Testing during the incubation period will almost always return a false negative result because there would be no antibodies to detect in the bloodstream giving the false impression that there is no disease process in the first place.
No matter what result you get on an at home STI test, it is always best to discuss your results with a professional healthcare provider. A single positive or a negative test result on an at home STI test kit is not enough to confirm or rule out the disease, respectively. A thorough clinical examination by a doctor and further clinical follow up are needed to verify whatever test results an at home STI test kit might have returned.
Another way to increase the reliability of an at home STI test kit is to read the package instructions first before using the test kit. More often than not, people do not use the at home test kits accurately and get false results. It is always best to thoroughly read the instruction manual and use the test kit exactly as the instructions suggest.
CAN AT HOME STI TESTS BE USED WHILE ON PERIODS?
Yes, you can always take an at home STI test even if you are on your period. The hormonal changes that arise with periods do not mess with the antibodies produced in response to the disease-causing virus. Moreover, you can even use the time on your period to get an at home test that uses blood or urine as the sample. However, before opting for an STI test that uses blood as the sample, you might want to research more on which STIs can be tested through blood.
At home, STI tests are especially useful when you are on your periods because they save you the trouble of going to the doctor's when you are feeling bloated and irritated.
HOW LONG CAN IT TAKE TO TEST FOR STIs AT HOME?
Rapid HIV swab tests can return an HIV test in about 20 minutes. Mail-in STI tests, however, are a different story.
Mail-in STI tests are diagnostic tools that allow you to collect a sample at home and then mail it to a testing facility nearby. Typically, this process takes about 2-3 days. However, this time period does not include the time it takes to collect the sample, mail it to the lab, and the time it takes for the results to be mailed back to you. Overall, it may take up to 3-4 days for your test results to return.
It is best to mail your sample to a testing facility as soon as you collect it. Samples that are kept aside for a long time may deteriorate and may not even be useable after some time. It is also a good idea to abstain from any sexual activity until your test results arrive.
HOW DO STI AT-HOME TESTS WORK?
STI at-home test kits work by allowing an individual to collect the sample, analyze it, and then receive a final result based on the sample. These devices fit the entire disease-testing process into one tiny module that is easy to understand.
Rapid STI home test kits work by analyzing a sample through a specialized machine or a solution and returning a result in minutes or hours. Mail-in STI at-home test kits allow the user to collect a sample, mail it to a nearby facility, and receive the test results in about a few days via mail.