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- Best budget option: STD Check
- Best report: Everlywell
- Best in-person testing option: Priority STD
- Best for fast results: myLAB Box
Genital herpes is caused by two viruses called herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).
If you haven’t had an initial outbreak, the best time to get tested for herpes is 12 days after exposure, since the incubation period is 2 to 12 days.
This means herpes may not be detectable for up to 12 days after you are exposed to it.
You can schedule an in-person appointment with a doctor, who can use a few different tests to determine your diagnosis. These tests may include:
- viral culture test
- virus antigen detection test
- antibody test
- polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test
An at-home test, on the other hand, can be done by yourself in private.
You can order a herpes test kit online, which may include a swab test or finger prick blood test, and send the sample back in the mail. Most companies will send your results within 5 days.
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). You can contract it by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the STI.
HSV-1 can also cause oral herpes, which may lead to sores or blisters around the mouth. You can contract oral herpes by kissing or engaging in oral sex with someone who already has the infection.
Some cases of oral herpes (HSV-1) can lead to genital herpes (HSV-1 and HSV-2) since the virus can spread from the saliva of someone with the infection into your body through oral sex.
It generally takes anywhere from 4 to 7 days for herpes symptoms to appear. In addition to sores or blisters — which are called herpes lesions — around your mouth or genitals, other possible symptoms may include:
- pain during urination
- swollen lymph nodes
Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all, but they can still transmit the infection to others.
When researching at-home herpes tests, we considered online reviews, privacy protocols, result times, result accuracy, and budget.
We prioritized affordable pricing and accessibility to digital results. Additionally, we kept an eye on user ratings and reviews to ensure that most people received accurate results and were happy with their experience.
Best budget option
- Price: $89
- Type of sample: finger prick
- Results: online results in 2 to 5 days
With a finger prick, myLAB Box’s at-home genital herpes test is easy to take. Online lab results are provided within 1 to 5 days.
When you order a kit, you’ll receive materials to take your finger prick sample in discreet packaging. It also comes with easy-to-follow instructions and a prepaid envelope to send the sample off for testing.
If your results are positive, you can schedule a free consultation with one of myLAB Box’s physicians. The company works with labs that are CLIA and CAP certified. Plus, the website itself is HIPAA compliant.
Note: Testing is not available yet in New York as the company is waiting for its state application to be approved.
- Price: $149
- Type of sample: finger prick and vaginal swab or urine sample
- Results: online results in 2 to 5 days
For $150, women can test for seven common STIs at once, including HSV-2. Tests require two samples: a finger prick and a vaginal swab, since the test is for various STIs.
Men can also test for herpes by purchasing the company’s STD Test for Men ($149). It looks for the same seven STIs as the women’s test. Sample types include a finger prick and a urine sample instead.
The kit includes prepaid shipping both ways, digital results, and detailed instructions. Once your kit arrives, you’ll need to register it on Everlywell’s website using the unique ID number included in your box.
In your kit, you’ll receive all you need to collect a finger prick sample and either a vaginal swab packet (found in the women’s testing kit) or a urine cup and urine sample tube (found in the men’s testing kit).
After shipping your sample, you’ll receive digital results on your account within a few days. If your results are positive, a board certified physician in your state will contact you at no additional cost to discuss your case and prescribe medication if necessary. Everlywell will also send you an easy-to-understand and personalized report detailing what STI you may have.
The site is HIPAA compliant and physician reviewed. This means your information is kept private, and medical information is approved by independent, board certified healthcare professionals.
Best in-person testing option
- Price: $99
- Type of sample: urine and blood sample
- Results: online results in 24 to 72 hours
Priority STD has a 4.9 rating on Trustpilot with more than 1,300 reviews.
You can order the Priority STD individual herpes 1/2 test online or by phone, which normally requires a waiting period of at least 12 days after exposure.
The company also offers early detection herpes testing for $198, which can identify the presence of HSV as soon as 10 days after exposure.
After scheduling an order, you’ll be directed to find a lab near you. There are over 4,000 labs to choose from, and you can use the site’s online scheduling system to make an appointment.
STI test results are processed online through a secure patient login, typically within 24 to 72 hours after collection.
Best for fast results
- Price: $45 (or $90 for HSV-1 and HSV-2)
- Type of Sample: blood test
- Results: online results in 1 to 2 days
STD Check has more than 4,500 testing sites nationwide. You can choose an individual test like HSV-1 or HSV-2 for $45 each. You can also order a 10-test panel, which includes the most common STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
The company is known for its fast test results, which are sent to your online account in 1 to 2 days.
Once you complete your order online, you can select a local testing center based on your ZIP code. According to the company, in-person tests only take 5 minutes.
Your test and results will be completely confidential. If your test results are positive, a physician can answer questions about your diagnosis.
Your HSV test results will likely be reported as negative (sometimes called “normal”) or positive (sometimes called “abnormal”):
- Negative. The herpes virus was not found. However, you may still have an HSV infection if your results were negative. It may mean the sample didn’t have enough virus to be detected. If you still have symptoms of herpes, you may need to order another test.
- Positive. HSV was found in your sample. It may mean you have an active infection (i.e., you currently have sores) or contracted the virus in the past (i.e., you have no sores).
If your test results are positive for HSV, talk with a doctor about your next steps.
Talk with a doctor if you notice any sores on or around your genitals. Other STIs, like syphilis, can look like herpes but need different treatment. Treatment is needed to prevent complications and transmission.
Your doctor will let you know whether you should test for herpes or another STI, and they can help you get treatment if needed.
Are at-home herpes tests accurate?
These tests use the same type of samples used in a doctor’s office. The accuracy of a herpes test primarily depends on when you get tested.
When should I get tested?
The best time to get tested for herpes if you haven’t had an initial outbreak is 12 days after exposure. This is because your body will have had time to produce antibodies that can be detected on a test.
A blood test can determine whether you have these antibodies.
Swabs, on the other hand, can detect the virus directly from an active herpes lesion.
Who should get tested?
Anyone who has herpes symptoms or thinks they’ve been in close contact with someone who has herpes should get tested.
How can I prevent transmitting herpes?
Although latex condoms can reduce the risk of transmitting most STIs by 98 percent, condoms don’t prevent herpes transmission. This is because not all herpes sores occur in areas that are covered by a condom.
If you’re experiencing an active outbreak, you can
- avoiding sexual activity (kissing and oral, vaginal, and anal sex) until symptoms go away
- washing your hands thoroughly and applying medication with cotton swabs to reduce contact with sores
Taking a daily antiviral herpes medication can also help prevent transmission, shorten outbreaks, and manage symptoms.
Are at-home herpes tests private?
Yes. All of the tests listed here are completely confidential and private.
Your results will not be reported to your insurance company and, therefore, will not be placed on your permanent medical records.
The package you receive will only have the shipping label — no test name or visuals that indicate what it is for. These online platforms are also HIPAA compliant.
What should I do if my test results are positive?
Many at-home services have independent physicians or nurses reach out to people with positive test results. They’ll discuss your results with you and suggest a plan of action, possibly including medication.
If your results are positive, it’s important to let any recent sexual partners know so they can also get tested.
When should I talk with a doctor?
If you have a primary care doctor who you regularly visit, you can share your results with them to provide better insight into your next steps.
If you don’t have a primary care doctor, you can consult with a physician or nurse from the testing site about treatment options.
If you’ve been treating your symptoms with medication and are still in pain or discomfort, reach out to a healthcare professional.
Will I have to pay for the test out of pocket?
You’ll have to check with your insurance network to see whether at-home STI tests are covered.
Insurance does typically cover them, but sites like Everlywell recommend verifying the purchase with your insurance.
Additionally, some networks may reimburse you for your purchase.
However, most at-home testing sites aren’t currently partnered with any insurance companies, which means you’ll have to reach out yourself.
If you don’t have insurance, you’ll likely have to pay for the test out of pocket. Some sites like Priority STD don’t accept insurance, so it’s a flat rate of $99 regardless of your coverage.
Can you be exposed to herpes and not get it?
Yes. Research suggests that in couples where only one partner has genital herpes, the other partner contracted genital herpes within 1 year in
You can prevent transmission by:
- taking daily antiviral herpes medication
- avoiding kissing and oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse during an outbreak
- using a barrier method during outbreak-free periods
There’s no current cure for herpes, but treatment can prevent or shorten outbreaks and manage symptoms.
Getting tested can prevent oral herpes from spreading to the genital area. It can also protect other people who you’re involved with sexually from contracting the virus.
At-home herpes tests give you the opportunity to do everything from the comfort of your home.
Bonnie Azoulay Elmann is a freelance writer with six years of experience. She’s written for Glamour, Marie Claire, Health, and more publications. You can find her work here.