Your Go-To STI Test May Not Be Legit, Here's How To Check

On a highly-related and urgent note, gonorrhoea is on the rise.
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When was the last time you got tested for an STI? If you don’t remember, you might want to get one booked.

Last week it was announced by UKHSA that gonorrhoea diagnoses from January to September 2022 were 21% higher than those reported over the same period in 2019.

Yes, it’s not the most enjoyable experience but it’s important to know for yourself and your sexual partners. Gone are the days when you were only able to get tested by a doctor as you can now get tested at home.

There are several different places that offer at-home STI tests but a 2020 study found that the regulation of online tests isn’t the best and the quality of services is variable.

So, how can you make sure that your STI test is safe? The team at Preventx, the UK’s largest provider of remote sexual health tests, gives us the low-down.

Is it a trusted and good quality service?

Online sexual health services will ask questions to gain information specific to your situation to ensure that the tests you take is the best one for you.

They should also provide clear information and instructions at all stages of the process; including how to conduct the tests and post-testing guidance.

If the test is provided by the NHS, it should be clear that it is part of free NHS sexual health services. There should also be easy-to-find telephone support, and alternative options such as online support.

You should ensure that the test you order covers a full sexual health screen – chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV, and syphilis – as a minimum, as recommended by UK guidelines.

The test itself should be CE marked or UKCA marked to indicate that it complies with applicable EU or UK regulations, respectively. CE marked devices will be accepted in Great Britain until 30 June 2023, after which devices will require a UKCA marking.

The website should include a simple explanation of the whole self-sampling process, from start to finish, including the steps you need to take, exactly how and when the service provider will communicate with you, and what happens when results are available.

Lab accreditation

You should only use services that analyse samples in an accredited laboratory. The United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS) is responsible for ensuring labs perform to the highest of standards and the UKAS website has a useful tool with which you can search accredited organisations.

ISO 15189:2012 is an international standard for medical laboratories, the presence of this accreditation can give confidence in the quality of the laboratory.

Recognised organisations

Organisations that are recognised by national bodies are more likely to be trustworthy. When looking for a service, see if it has been endorsed by the NHS, a Local Authority or is a commissioned sexual health service.

All health services should be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) publishes guidance on self-sampling, and providers should follow and support this guidance.

Data and security

Services should be transparent about what the data you enter is used for, how it is protected, and who it is shared with. The provider should comply with data laws and regulations, including NHS information governance, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements and The Data Protection Act.

Speak to the NHS

If you have any doubts about the quality of a service, get in touch with your local NHS sexual health service for extra guidance. You should feel confident that you are managing your sexual health in a safe way, so don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for advice if you need it.

Don’t pay for tests you don’t need

Some providers of online tests offer testing for things that aren’t considered to be sexually transmitted infections.

They might also want you to buy a test for something that is not recommended unless you have specific symptoms, or even offer testing for an STI on the wrong sample – for example testing for syphilis on urine or swab samples, when you actually need to test a blood sample.

Don’t spend money on tests that you don’t need to – if these tests show a positive result you might end up being given antibiotics unnecessarily and this can actually be harmful. If you are unsure, speak to your GP.

Preventx is the UK’s largest provider of remote sexual health tests, partnering with the NHS in more than 70 local authority areas. To find out if a free test kit is available in your area, visit