At-Home STD Tests Private, but Sometimes Wrong
April 22, 2011
A few for-profit firms are selling at-home STD tests with the promise of saving money, time and possible embarrassment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, has not approved the companies' kits, and one study found their accuracy was hit-or-miss.
"We wanted to see if people were [processing] these tests on their dining room table or in a barn," said Charlotte Gaydos, an STD and public health expert at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Last year, she put the testing services of several companies through a test of her own. Of six websites from which kits could be ordered, two never returned results. Of the remainder, half returned false-negative results, though Gaydos ensured the samples contained chlamydia.
FDA issued a warning last November to Identigene, whose unapproved kits were being sold through Rite-Aid stores. Identigene declined to say how many of the $119 kits it has sold; it said it is working to win FDA approval and anticipates being in compliance by late summer.
With CDC's cooperation, Gaydos and her team created a web-based testing service that offers free at-home STD kits through www.IWantTheKit.org or by telephone. With grant funding, the program sends at-home kits free to addresses in Alaska, Denver, Maryland, West Virginia, Philadelphia, District of Columbia, and some Illinois counties. The 2,600 women and 900 men screened so far had two to three times the STD prevalence found among persons who test at family planning clinics, Gaydos said.
Modeled on the Hopkins program, Los Angeles County's www.DontThinkKnow.org website also is a free at-home testing service. Of 1,619 tests returned to the program, 8.5 percent tested positive for chlamydia, 6.8 percent for gonorrhea, and 4.8 percent both. First-year cost was $50,470, "a very good start for something that has not been done before," said county Public Health Director Dr. Jonathan Fielding.
04.18.2011; Brian Alexander
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