Rapid sexually transmitted disease (STD) tests have been developed to save people time, effort, and stress when testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections. Some rapid STD tests are done in a doctor's office or clinic, while others can be done in the comfort and privacy of your home.
These tests are aimed at avoiding one of the most common problems that STD clinics face – people who don't come back for their results. Often times, a person will have the courage to get tested only to back off when it's time to get the news. As a result, the infection may go untreated, increasing the risk of complications for the patient and allowing it to spread to other people.
Overcome testing barriers
A quick STD test allows you to get results in minutes, not days. If the test is positive (meaning you are infected), you have the option of receiving immediate treatment rather than returning for a prescription.
The new tests also aim to overcome another factor that holds many people back: needles and blood. Depending on the medical condition, the rapid test may only require a swab of body fluids or a urine sample (in addition to traditional blood tests or a finger stick).
Rapid STD Testing Accuracy
Not all rapid tests are the same. Some of them are more sensitive and specific than others.
Sensitivity is the ability of the test to correctly identify people with the disease (true positive).
Specificity is the ability of the test to correctly identify those who do not have the disease (a true negative score).
When tested during an acute infection, rapid STD tests have moderate sensitivity and specificity:
- Gonorrhea: sensitivity 86% and specificity 97%
- Syphilis: 85% sensitivity and 91% specificity.
- Chlamydia: 86% sensitivity and 97% specificity
- Hepatitis B: 97% sensitivity and 99% specificity
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): sensitivity 87% and specificity 94%
- Herpes simplex: sensitivity 93% and specificity 99.9%
- HIV (at home, oral swab): sensitivity 92% and specificity 99%
Unfortunately, a lower level of sensitivity leads to a higher risk of false negative results , which means that a person receives a 'total rejection' when they are actually infected. In comparison, the sensitivity of a 92% home HIV test means one false negative for every 15 tests.
This is why some bacterial diseases (such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia) are more accurately diagnosed by culture than by rapid tests.
Get the word of drug information
The failure rate of home tests is due both to misuse of the product (including incorrect use of swabs and out-of- window tests) and technical limitations of the tests themselves.
Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nor the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) recommend rapid tests for STDs. It is for this reason that any positive, inconclusive, or suspected negative results on a home test should be followed by testing at your local clinic or doctor's office.