April is Sexually Transmitted Infection Awareness Month but it’s sort of slipped through the cracks this year, what with COVID-19 and all of the social distancing! The pandemic has made it hard for folks to get into see their healthcare providers for regular check-ups and screenings, and that includes getting tested for STIs. At the same time, the period of isolation is a great time to get that little blister or not-quite-right discharge checked out and treated before you’re back to your usual sexual routines. It’s never the wrong time to take care of yourself, even if we’re staying safer at home.
I’ve done a little digging and come up with a solution to both parts of this situation: at-home STI tests! I know my enthusiasm might seem a little misplaced. What’s so exciting about doing your own lab work in your own bathroom? Well, it can be super fun to play with lab supplies, and very empowering to take charge of your health. Gathering and prepping your own lab samples is pretty easy, and all three of the companies I looked into include great instructions with their kits, and have great customer service to help you out if need it along the way.
I looked at Everlywell, Let’s Get Checked, and MyLAB BOX. All three of these companies accept payment from your health savings account or flexible spending account, and all three had discounts available on their websites. They also all have providers who can prescribe antibiotics if you test positive for a bacterial infection. When you order a test kit, you get everything you need to obtain your own sample, safely package it, and send it back to the lab. It’s best to collect your sample first thing in the morning after waking. Shipping is included with the price, so it’s as easy as dropping the package in the nearest mailbox.
These three services all use CLIA compliant laboratories for processing their tests, and they adhere to HIPAA guidelines to protect your privacy. It’s important to know that all testing services (including the ones discussed here) are still bound by law regarding “reportable illnesses.” In Wisconsin, the reportable STIs are HIV, hepatitis A, B, and C, chancroid, chlamydia trachomatis infection, gonorrhea, sexually transmitted pelvic inflammatory disease, and syphilis.
1. Everlywell was the most affordable of the three testing services. They were also prompt to reply to my emails for additional information.
Cost: From $39 for a single test to $199 for a seven panel test kit.
Discount: A 10% off coupon pops up when you go to the site.
Getting your results: A doctor reviews your lab results, and then they’re available through a secure platform.
Customer service chat feature: Yes.
Gendered marketing: Yes, the test kits are categorized as “STD Test – Female” and “STD Test – Male.” The individual tests are just listed by the test name.
2. Let’s Get Checked seems to be very dedicated to making your STI testing experience as easy and low-stress as possible. Their website has a friendly user interface, and they respond to their chat messages quickly and kindly. Unfortunately, you can’t pick and choose which tests you’d like. All tests are offered only as part of a panel.
Cost: From $99 for a two panel kit (chlamydia and gonorrhea) to $269 for a 10 panel kit.
Discount: There is a 25% off coupon at the top of every page.
Getting your results: A doctor first reviews your results. If any of your tests are positive, you’ll first receive a call from one of their nurses. They will be able to provide a prescription if you have a bacterial infection, and provide you with other resources if necessary.
Customer service chat feature: Yes.
Gendered marketing: All of the STI tests are labeled simply as Sexual Health Tests. Let’s Get Checked carries other tests (i.e. cholesterol, vitamin D, hormone levels, etc.) which are categorized as Women’s and Men’s tests.
3. MyLAB Box has the widest variety of test kits, and sells each test individually as well. I had fun looking around their site at all of the combinations of tests available. Unfortunately, they don’t have a chat feature on their website, and they never replied to my email inquiry.
Cost: From $79 for a single test to $369 for a 14 panel STI testing kit. There are other multi-panel kits at varying price points, including a couples kit (The Love Box) for $499 and a Boomer Kit (for folks born between 1945 and 1965) for $189.
Discount: There is a 20% off coupon in a banner at the top of the home page.
Getting your results: Your results are reviewed by a physician, and then available through a secure portal. If you’ve tested positive for anything, you can have a free telephone consultation with a physician who has the ability to write a prescription for a bacterial infection.
Chat feature: No.
Gendered marketing: The site has a link labeled female and another labeled male in the middle of the home page. But if you click on “home tests” at the top of the page, you’re able to shop a wide variety of test kits with very little gendered language. Additionally, there is an LGBTQ specific FAQ to help people of all genders select the correct tests for their bodies.
Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll get back to you with an answer.