A buyer’s guide to STI tests
Reviewed by our clinical team
Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is nothing to be ashamed of – in fact, it’s a really good thing to do for your health. Unfortunately, lots of people feel that there’s a stigma attached to getting tested, which puts them off visiting their GP or local sexual health clinic.
If you want to get tested but you’d rather do it from the comfort of your own home, Online Doctor can help. We stock safe and reliable home STI kits that you can use at home and post to our lab for testing.
How to get an STI test with Online Doctor
Ordering a home test kit from Online Doctor is really quick and easy. Start by visiting our online STI clinic and browsing available test kits.
- Select your test by clicking “Request test kit”
- Fill out our short, confidential questionnaire – this is an online version of the chat you’d have with a doctor or nurse in person
- Pay for your test and enter your home address
- One of our in-house clinicians will check your questionnaire to confirm your suitability
- If approved, the test will be delivered to your home in discreet packaging
- Carry out the test at home, using the instructions provided
- Post your sample to our lab using the prepaid envelope supplied with the kit
- Get your results through your secure online Patient Record
Once our lab has received your sample they should be able to test it and provide your results within three working days.
Who can use our tests
You can use our STI test kits provided you are over 18 and you’re not experiencing any STI symptoms.
If you’re having certain symptoms, we won't be able to send you a test kit. This is because you might need a more in-depth discussion to work out which tests or investigations you should have. Instead, you should go to your local sexual health clinic or make an appointment with your GP. STI symptoms include:
- Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
- Abnormal bleeding from the vagina
- Burning or stinging when you urinate
- Pain or discomfort in the lower tummy, penis, or testicles
- Discomfort, discharge, or bleeding from the rectum
If you’ve developed a rash, bumps, lumps or sores around your genitals, or you’re experiencing any other visible symptoms, you can use our genital photo assessment service to get a consultation from a doctor. A photo assessment is a great way to diagnose genital warts or genital herpes, other lumps and bumps and some types of rashes.
What are the different types of STI test kits available?
We can test for these STIs:
You can choose a test that looks for one or more of the above STIs.
Choosing the right test
Most of our test kits look for more than one infection, making them ideal if you just want a check-up This might be a good idea if you’ve been having casual sex, particularly with more than one partner, or you haven’t been tested in a while.
We categorise our tests depending on who will be using them, and which samples are required:
- Our “Female” STI test kits contain a vaginal swab
- Our “Male” STI test kits contain a container to collect a urine sample
- Our “Man to man” STI test kits contain a swab for the rectum, swab for the throat and a small container for a urine sample (these kits are designed for men who have sex with men)
- Our syphilis and HIV test kits contain everything you need for you to take a small amount of blood from your fingertip (a finger-prick test)
If you aren’t sure what kind of kit you need – this may be the case if you’re a trans man or trans woman – the clinician who looks at your questionnaire will be able to advise you.
Our HIV tests
We offer several different combinations of test that check for HIV, including a solo HIV test kit. Our HIV tests involve pricking your finger to provide a blood sample. Only a tiny amount of blood is needed, and it shouldn’t be painful.
The type of HIV test we use can give two results: reactive or negative.
- A reactive result means you may have HIV and you’ll need to have another blood test taken at your local clinic, to double check the result. If the result is reactive we'll discuss this with you and tell you what to do next.
- A negative result means there is no sign of HIV in your body.
This test probably won’t pick up on the virus if you’ve been exposed to it in the last four weeks. You can still take a test within this time, but if it comes up as negative, it’s a good idea to take another test once the four weeks have passed.
Are home STI testing kits reliable?
No test is 100% reliable, but our home test kits are very accurate at picking up infection provided the sample was taken correctly. They can give a good indication of whether you’re STI-free or whether you need further testing and treatment.
An important thing to bear in mind is that different infections have different “window periods” when it comes to testing:
- Chlamydia, trichomonas, and gonorrhoea can show as early as two weeks after exposure
- HIV can show up as early as four weeks after exposure
- Syphilis can show up 12 weeks after exposure
In other words, taking a test too early may result in an unreliable result. However, you can always take the test early – if you get a negative result, you can take a second one at a later date to be certain.
How will I get my results and will they be private?
We’ve worked hard to ensure that the entire testing process is private and confidential. Our doctors will only ever contact you directly through your secure, password-protected Patient Record.
You’ll also receive your results securely through this account. When the results are ready (normally within three days of the lab receiving your sample) you’ll get an email and text (if you’ve opted in) saying your results are ready to view in your Patient Record. If you haven’t received your results in seven days, contact us through your Patient Record to let us know.
Your GP doesn't have to know about your tests or results, we'll only let them know if you give us permission in your Patient Record. You can change this preference at any point.
We also make sure to send our tests in discreet packaging that doesn’t have any labelling related to sexual health or STIs.
Can I get treatment for STIs with Online Doctor?
Yes! However, we don’t provide treatment for all the infections we test for.
If you buy a test with us and get a positive result for chlamydia or trichomonas, we can supply free treatment – provided it is safe and appropriate for you to take this. If you test positive for other infections, we’ll advise you on where to get treatment.
In our STI treatment clinic you can order treatment for chlamydia, genital warts, and genital herpes. If you need treatment for genital herpes or genital warts, we might ask you for photos or further information so we can confirm the diagnosis.
Where else can I get tested for STIs?
STI tests are available for free through the NHS. To get tested in person you can go to a sexual health or GUM clinic, as well as your GP. Testing is also available from some young people’s services, community contraception clinics, and pharmacies.