Nationwide At-Home STD Test Kits Now Available in the US
Is a doctor really necessary to test for STDs?
It’s generally agreed that getting checked for a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is something nobody wants to do.
It means scheduling an appointment, having an awkward or uncomfortable conversation with the doctor, and, of course, undergoing a test that often cannot be done at a general practitioner’s office. Then, you have to wait for the results, which may need to be collected later at the clinic. And all of this may be to confirm you don’t have something.
This onerous process is the perceived lack that myLAB Box aims to fill with its do-it-yourself STD test kits. The company claims to offer the first nationwide testing service in the United States.
When you look at the statistics, the market for this product could be huge. According to the Center for Disease Control, there are 110 million Americans living with a viral STD, which amounts to almost a third of the country’s population.
According to the World Health Organisation, each year an estimated 500 million people become ill with one of four sexually transmitted infections (STIs): chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. Globally, there are more than one million new STI cases every day. The fact that the majority of STDs are present without symptoms has a lot to do with these daunting figures.
The myLAB Box offers five different test kits that can be bought online, discreetly packaged, and mailed to your door. The service claims to test for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, HIV, and Hepatitis C with the same accuracy as professionally conducted tests.
Sample types include urine, blood from a finger pinprick, and a vaginal swab. They are collected by users at home in a process that purportedly takes no longer than five minutes. Users then send their samples in addressed, postage-paid envelopes to a lab near them and wait two to five days for their electronic results.
As of October 14, the myLAB Box website was updated to provide access to STD counselors and experts, and includes functionality on mobile devices.
Lora Ivanova, myLAB Box’s co-founder and CMO, said in a press release that her product comes as a response to a history of high cost, inefficiency, and poor customer experiences when getting tested for STDs.
The company motto “safe is sexy” is an empowering adage and an important progress indicator of the sexual health culture we should all be living in. Getting tested for STDs should be easy, accessible, and encouraged.
The question remains as to whether or not the tests will really turn out to have the same accuracy as those conducted by medical professionals.
According to wisegeek.com, home STD test kits may be less accurate due to the way samples are collected. For example, a person may inadvertently contaminate their sample.
The same article also expresses reservations about the quality standards upheld by the labs where samples are tested, saying there’s no way to know if they’re up to scratch or not.
Future of Sex contacted myLAB Box about these qualms. Ivanova said that extensive testing before myLAB Box was launched proved the accuracy of results was the same whether they were done in an office or at home. She also said that the actual collection of a urine sample, which is the most common sample type and the central point of much criticism, is always done by the patient. So why not skip the hassle and do this in the comfort of their own homes? she added.
Ivanova also said that their “lab affiliate is a CLIA high complexity testing laboratory certified in all 50 states. It has been at the forefront of infectious disease testing methodologies for years maintaining exceptional quality standards.”
Another concern is whether or not users will be able to properly interpret their results and take appropriate action with the information their test kits give them.
While the myLAB Box website offers contact with sexual health counselors and experts, some users may not know who to contact or may neglect speaking with a professional entirely before seeking out appropriate treatment.
In response, Ivanova told Future of Sex that myLAB Box partners “with a nationwide network of highly qualified sexual health counselors who follow up personally with any positive results to discuss next steps and answer burning questions.”
Obviously there are still reservations as to whether the de-professionalization of STD testing is a good idea. Benefits like ease, comfort, and increased access should lead to greater numbers of people getting tested regularly for STDs and preventing the spread of infectious diseases.
If the myLAB Box test kits prove to be effective in the US, they could do a lot for the global infection rates stated above. They could relieve the enormous strain on medical resources that could be used elsewhere. Given that the US is not known for its progressive stance on healthcare, myLAB Box could do a lot to improve not just sexual health in the country, but also access to medical services.
Image source: myLAB Box