How Reliable Are STI Home Tests? Expert Advice for Safe Testing and Treatment.

How Reliable Are STI Home Tests? Expert Advice for Safe Testing and Treatment.

2023-06-08 21:01:20

With summer just around the corner, a summer romance can turn into unsafe lovemaking. If you are unsure whether you have contracted an STI, companies offer online solutions by offering home tests. But to what extent do these STI home tests give a reliable result?

If you have been at risk for an STI, it is smart to take a test, even if you have no complaints. “But it is better to go to the GP or GGD for this,” advises Hanna Bos, infectious disease control doctor and medical expert at Soa Aids Nederland. As part of Stichting Aidsfonds, this organization aims to reduce HIV and other STIs in the Netherlands.

Bos sees that the number of consultations for an STD test has increased. “Most people go to their GP for an STI test. But we also notice that sometimes there is still some shame. And at the GGD, which is often overloaded, you don’t always get in, so we also see that many tests are ordered online in recent years. That is understandable: we are used to ordering everything online.” STI AIDS Netherlands estimates that the number of STI home tests is at least 100,000 annually.

Collect urine or a smear yourself

Two types of self-tests are available for home use. One type is on the shelf at the drugstore and is comparable to a pregnancy test. For example, you have to take a urine sample or a smear yourself. “But these tests are Russian roulette in terms of results,” says Bos. For STIs, the most common of which are caused by bacteria, there are no reliable do-it-yourself tests. It’s a different story with HIV, which is a virus. Reliable home tests are available at the pharmacy for this.

For the tests that are offered online, you will discreetly receive a test package in your mailbox. You take urine or blood at home and send it to a laboratory for the results. These tests are just as reliable in terms of results as those of the doctor, provided you have the right test for you and take it from the right place on your body, for example in the throat, vagina or anus. It is also important that online providers offer the right pre- and aftercare. Bos: “As a precaution, you should think about the provision of information to choose a suitable test. For example, a boy who has sex with several boys more often needs a different test package for more STDs than a girl who has had sex with a boy once.”

Better to see a doctor for treatment

According to Bos, things often go wrong in the aftercare as well. “Because who is going to treat you if you have a positive test? There are online parties that also offer treatment, but it is better to go to a doctor for this. Most GPs do accept a test result from an accredited laboratory.”

Bos advises people who opt for a home test from a commercial party to go for a provider that offers good pre- and aftercare. “If you don’t want or can’t go to the GP or GGD, make sure you are well informed. Soa Aids Nederland conducts independent research into providers of home tests based on quality requirements; our website states where you can buy reliable home tests online.”

In Het Consult, experts answer readers’ health questions every week. Also a health question? Send an email to [email protected].

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