DAVID GREENE, HOST:
One challenge with diagnosing sexually transmitted diseases is that people are often embarrassed to talk to their doctors. So could a home testing kit actually help here? Leslie McClurg from member station KQED in San Francisco tried one out.
LESLEY MCCLURG, BYLINE: Step one - collect your swab sample. I think I'll do that in the bathroom. Now, I'm back and then use this little white plastic thing - lancet - to prick my finger - ouch (laughter) ow.
Blood pooled on the tip of my ring finger. I let droplets soak onto a white collection slip. Then I slid the specimens in a prepaid envelope provided by myLAB Box. Lora Ivanova is the CEO of the company based in Los Angeles. She assures me my results will be tested in a certified lab.
LORA IVANOVA: The accuracy of results is the exact same as you would get in a clinic or a doctor's office. It's very difficult to mess these up.
MCCLURG: A few days later, I received an email confirming what I thought. I don't have chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis. But if I had been positive...
IVANOVA: We actually connect to you with physicians in your state if you ever test positive using our service.
MCCLURG: And the call is free. There are a slew of startups selling STD kits like LetsGetChecked and EverlyWell, and the tests can put you back anywhere from 100 to 400 bucks depending on how many diseases you want checked. Over-the-counter tests can increase access to people without insurance or people like teenagers who want to avoid embarrassing conversations. Jennifer Conti is a gynecologist at Stanford University.
JENNIFER CONTI: People who can't openly talk to their partners or their parents even about getting STD screening.
MCCLURG: Conti also says home tests can make it easier for individuals who live far from clinics. She recommends frequent testing if you're sleeping with multiple partners.
CONTI: It's a good rule of thumb to get tested about every six months.
MCCLURG: If you're doing this at home, it's important to know that most of these kits are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has only approved two home tests for HIV, and so the quality of the others may vary. Norman Paradis is an emergency room physician at Dartmouth University.
NORMAN PARADIS: The people who draw your blood in a hospital or in a clinic are all trained, and they obtain specimens that have no inconsistency. But some of the new devices for doing this on yourself at home haven't been validated to the same extent.
MCCLURG: Though Paradis says the benefits of home testing far outweigh the risks as long as patients see a doctor if they get a positive or whenever they're experiencing abnormal symptoms. For NPR News, I'm Lesley McClurg in San Francisco.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.