Are at-home STI tests the secret to getting more people tested? This company is banking on it.

Couple making out on couch

Among all the awkward sexual encounters you’ll have in your life, you’d probably rank talking about your STI test history as the worst. (We hope.)

But even while getting regularly tested for STIs is vital for a healthy sex life, more and more research shows that men don’t really care much about regularly testing for things like gonorrhea or chlamydia.

That’s really bad news.

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The scary stats on STIs in the U.S.

Only 11.5% of men and women aged 15 to 25 have been tested for possible STIs within the previous year, according to a 2016 data analysis published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Of the nearly 4,000 participants, 16.6% of women were tested, compared to only 6.1% of men.

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Their reasoning? About 42% of young adults didn’t get tested because they didn’t think they were at risk for STIs. Those dependent on their parents for financial stability (e.g. mom and dad read your credit card statements) were less likely to get tested out of fear of being judged or reprimanded. And interestingly enough, men were less inclined to get tested due to concerns over confidentiality and privacy.

Keep that in mind the next time someone tells you they’re "pretty sure" they’re free of STDs.

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And here’s the thing: All the data we can find says that young adults are at risk of contracting STIs. The number of newly acquired STIs soared in 2016, reaching an all-time high of 20 million cases in the U.S., according to a CDC report. Half of these figures were for 15- to 24-year-olds.

Despite these numbers, couples still aren’t talking about STI testing. About 40% of men and women had no clue whether their current sexual partner has been tested for STIs, according to a survey of 1,454 18- to 35-year-olds conducted by Cosmopolitan.com. And if the conversation did come up, it was usually the female who initiated: 52% of women said they asked their partner.

A new product called myLAB Box is hoping to change that.

What myLAB Box is all about

myLAB Box is an FDA-approved home STI test kit delivery service. The tests are just as accurate as testing in a lab or doctor’s office, only with the added bonus of, y’know, not having to drive somewhere to pee in a cup.

myLAB STI test kit

Courtesy Image

myLAB Box claims its tests are, on average, less than half the cost of getting the same tests in a lab or clinic, because you’re not getting charged for co-pays or follow-up exams. While health insurance may cover all or a chunk of the cost of STI testing in a physician’s office, many policies don’t cover preventative screenings, according to stdcheck.com.

myLAB Box compares its four-panel test ($189 for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trich) with Planned Parenthood’s, which is about $180, and stdcheck.com‘s, which is $349.

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In the subtly decorated box for men, you’ll find collector kits for a urine sample, rectal swab, oral swab, blood drop (via a finger prick), and instructions for each. Do your business, then return the envelope with the postage paid return (free shipping). In a matter of days you’ll have online access to your results, as well as a free consultation and prescriptions if you test positive for any STI. There’s even a Love Box, $499, for couples so you can both have peace of mind that you have no risk of transferring an STI.

So while at-home testing is basically the same product that you’d get at a doctor’s office or a testing clinic, the sheer convenience of in-home testing could be a huge deal for helping to stem the rise of STDs. Think about how much more convenient it is to order a pizza rather than go pick it up, and you’ll get the idea.

Will it actually make an impact? That remains to be seen. But, in the meantime, you should probably do yourself a favor and get checked anyway.

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