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How Accurate Are Rapid STD Tests?

Not all rapid STD tests have the same level of accuracy. Some are more sensitive to the presence of infection than others, and certain tests provide more specificity when it comes to negative results.

Specificity and Sensitivity

When reviewing the accuracy of an STD test, you will often hear references to specificity and sensitivity. Specificity refers to how good a test is at determining who does not have a disease, while sensitivity refers to how effectively a test can determine who does have the disease. The average accuracy rate by STD is:

  • Gonorrhea: 97% specificity, 86% sensitivity
  • Chlamydia: 97% specificity, 86% sensitivity
  • HPV: 84% specificity, 86% sensitivity
  • Syphilis: 91% specificity, 85% sensitivity
  • HIV: 99-99.9% specificity, 92-99% sensitivity (depending on method of collection)
  • Herpes: 99% specificity, 93% sensitivity

A lower sensitivity rate means the risk of a false negative is higher, or that you could test negative with a rapid STD test when you really do have the infection. Accurately diagnosing certain bacterial diseases, such as Chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea is more likely through culture than a rapid STD test.

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A rapid STD test may also produce a false result if it isn’t handled correctly. Improper swabbing or testing outside of the window when you would likely test positive are two of the most common mistakes.

What Is a Rapid STD Test?

Rapid STD tests are appealing because some can be performed in the privacy of your own home, which means you don’t have to visit your health care provider’s office to get tested. The purpose of this type of test is to provide immediate results. Some people who get tested by their health care provider never return to find out the results or receive any treatment they need. Since certain STDs can cause serious side effects and increased health risks, starting treatment right away is important if you do test positive.

In order to protect yourself and your sexual partner(s), you should get tested for STDs regularly. Your sexual practices impact how often you should get tested.

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