Testing for HIV and other STIs can feel like an inconvenient part of our sex lives. Whether it’s taking time off of work to go to a clinic, paying for testing, or not wanting to deal with judgment about your sex life from healthcare providers, testing may not feel like something you can do regularly.

Staying on top of your sexual health doesn’t have to feel like a chore. This is where self-testing comes in.

HIV and STI self-testing involves getting test kits mailed to you that you can take at home or in a private space on your own time. The convenience of self-testing means you can stay on top of your health without the type of planning it requires to test in-person.

Self-tests are a little different than the tests you may have taken in the past with your medical provider, at a clinic, or at a testing event. You may have had providers take blood from a vein in your arm or hands and swab your mouth or ass. Here’s some of the key differences:

  • Some at-home tests, like the OraQuick® In-Home HIV Test available from Together.TakeMeHome.org, let you test for HIV without blood–you swab your gums and get results in 20 minutes! It’s a super private and fast option.
  • Other self-tests, like TakeMeHome.org’s STI & HIV tests, use a fingerstick (lancet) for you to draw blood and drop it on a small card to send to a lab. These tests also include anal and oral swabs and a urine sample. You take the tests on your own, meaning you swab your own ass and throat. Then you send the samples to a lab in the mail and get results on a secure portal just days later.

When it comes to seeing if self-tests will give you the most accurate result, it’s important to understand how your sex life and drug use may play a role. All HIV and STI tests have a ‘window period,’ which is the time from when someone got an infection until the time the test is able to detect the infection. If you had sex last week, most HIV tests (even ones you get at a clinic) wouldn’t be able to detect HIV in your body yet.

Additionally, most common STIs don’t show symptoms, like a new rash, discharge, or pain when using the bathroom. This means that there are certain STIs that you could have for a long period of time and not know it!

This is why frequent testing is incredibly important, especially if you’re sexually active or sharing drug use supplies (like syringes or cookers). The CDC recommends that you test every 3 to 6 months to get an accurate understanding of your health, including if you need to start treatment for HIV or other STIs. The most common STIs that you want to make sure to test for are:

  • Chlamydia & gonorrhea, anywhere you play (including swabbing your butt and throat as well as peeing in a cup)
  • HIV & syphilis (a blood test)
  • Hepatitis C, especially if you inject drugs or are currently pregnant (a blood test)

TakeMeHome™ delivers free self-tests in a discreet package right to your door. We ask you only a few questions to determine your eligibility, meaning most people can order a test in under 60 seconds. Because it’s recommended that sexually active people test every three to six months, we make sure you can order a self-test every 90 days. You can place an order at tmhtest.me/a4a and learn more on Instagram and X.

Find out more about self-testing at bhoc.me/selftest.

Do you think you’ll order a self-test? What questions do you have about self-testing? Have you ever used a self-test? Let us know in the comments below.

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