The Best At-Home Herpes Tests of 2020

A private way to find out if you have this condition

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First Look

Most often, when people are talking about herpes, they are referring to a genital herpes infection. An at-home herpes test may be a good option for those who are uncomfortable talking about sensitive topics like this in person or whose medical providers are not in favor of asymptomatic testing.

Herpes refers to an infection caused by a herpes simplex virus. According to the CDC, approximately one in every six people in the U.S. is infected with genital herpes. Many people who are infected with the herpes virus never have recognizable symptoms, and people who do not have symptoms are unlikely to be treated for herpes, although they can still transmit the virus.

This concern about transmitting the virus to a partner is one reason why some people want at-home herpes testing, even when their doctor doesn’t recommend it. In general, most doctors do not recommend that asymptomatic people be routinely screened for herpes because of the significant risk of false-positive results, which could lead to anxiety and other concerns. This is why doctors will generally only test for herpes if someone has symptoms or if they are at high risk.

There are two types of herpes simplex virus, HSV-1 and HSV-2. Although HSV-1 used to be referred to as the oral herpes virus, a growing number of cases of genital herpes are now being caused by HSV-1. Because of this, people who are concerned about genital herpes need to be tested for both HSV-1 and HSV-2, not just HSV-2.

Important:

If you are concerned about genital herpes, you need to be tested for both HSV-1 and HSV-2.

Unfortunately, relatively few good options exist for at-home herpes tests. Indeed, several of the more reputable online sexual health sites do not offer at-home herpes tests, although treatment may be available for you online at these sites if you have been previously diagnosed by a doctor. Suppressive therapy may also help to both reduce herpes symptoms and the risk of transmitting the virus to a partner.

We have researched providers of at-home herpes tests and rounded up the best sites, based on privacy, the accuracy of results, price, reputation, and more. If you’re showing symptoms or are concerned that you may have been infected by HSV-1 or HSV-2, and you prefer to take a private, at-home herpes test, take a look below for sites you can order from.

Our Top Picks

LetsGetChecked: Best Price

LetsGetChecked

LetsGetChecked 

Why We Chose It: LetsGetChecked tests are broadly available at drug stores and online. However, we chose it because it offers a discount if you want to undergo repeat testing. This can be useful if you are at high risk of being exposed to herpes.

Pros
  • Good price, particularly for repeat testing

  • True at-home testing

  • Your test results are completely anonymous and cannot be linked back to you

Cons
  • Collecting a blood sample at home may be difficult for some people

  • Improper sample collection could affect your results

  • Some website information is not accurate. It should not be used for disease information

  • All counseling is done by nurses, not doctors

The LetsGetChecked Home Herpes Test is a true at-home herpes test, for both HSV-1 and HSV-2. You use a lancet (a small needle) to prick your finger and then collect the blood in the provided tube, which then needs to be shipped back in the included envelope. Blood should be collected before 9 a.m. and taken immediately to the carrier for shipping. Tests should not be sent on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Results are ready in 2-5 days and accessed through a secure online portal.

Nurses are available for consultation only for people who test positive for herpes. A single kit from LetsGetChecked can be purchased for around $119 at its website as well as at other online sites and certain drug stores. For people interested in repeat testing, a subscription can be purchased for as low as $84 per kit. This could be useful for people who don’t know when they were exposed, or those who are at high risk of herpes infection.

STDcheck.com: Best for Difficult Sexual Relationships

STDcheck.com

STDcheck.com

Why We Chose It: STDcheck.com is very easy to use and offers several options for at-home herpes testing. However, what’s notable about the site is that it lets you send online anonymous text alerts to sexual partners who might need to be tested. That’s not as good as talking with them in person, but it can help with some awkward conversations you might not otherwise be willing to have.

Pros
  • For $130, individuals get access to both HSV-1 and HSV-2 testing. A 10-test panel with other STDs costs $198

  • Ability to alert sexual partners by anonymous text

  • Results within 1-2 days

  • Tests are run at the same labs used by a doctor’s office

Cons
  • The least expensive option does not detect genital herpes cases caused by HSV-1

  • Doctor consultations are only available for people who test positive

  • Insurance is not an option for payment

STDcheck.com allows people to order STD tests online and then go to a local lab for testing (so it’s not technically at-home, but you still don’t have to go to your primary care physician). Over 4,500 testing locations are available nationwide, and most people will be able to find a location that is convenient for them. After the test is ordered, you go to the lab and have your blood drawn. The lab sends it for analysis and, in a few days, you can access your results by phone or online.

Recommended herpes (HSV-1 & HSV-2) testing options run from $130 to $198, and telephone doctor consultations are free for individuals who have a positive test. (We do not recommend the $65 genital herpes test, as any genital herpes infections caused by HSV-1 would not be detected.)

One benefit of this service: The website also offers a tool for patients to send anonymous text alerts to previous sexual partners to suggest they get tested.

PlushCare: Best for New Symptoms

PlushCare

PlushCare 

Why We Chose It: If you think you may have herpes symptoms for the first time, blood tests are not accurate. It’s best to see a doctor—and PlushCare offers that from home because PlushCare is a telemedicine provider.

Pros
  • Accepts insurance from several major companies

  • A doctor may be able to diagnose you with herpes without testing, which is faster and less expensive than other options

  • Meeting with a doctor allows you to ask questions and get educated about your sexual health concerns

  • PlushCare is a telemedicine provider. It may be a good option for people who also need other online or at-home healthcare

Cons
  • A doctor visit is required to access testing

  • You’re not actually buying a herpes test. If your doctor doesn’t think you need one, you may not be offered one

When you use PlushCare for STD testing, you’re not actually purchasing an at-home herpes test. Instead, you are making a virtual appointment with a doctor to discuss your concerns about herpes and other STDs. Then, if the doctor thinks a test is warranted, he or she will write an order for a test and send you to fill it. Results are usually communicated to the doctor within 3-5 days, and then the doctor will follow up with you by telehealth and can provide treatment or further testing as appropriate.

PlushCare’s website states that it is in-network with most major health insurance plans, including Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross, Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and many others. New PlushCare customers have access to a 30-day free trial, and after that membership is $14.99 per month. If you have insurance that PlushCare accepts, the cost of a visit is the cost of your copay. For individuals without insurance, visits cost $99. If a test is required, it may come at an additional cost, depending on your insurance status and whether testing is covered.

PlushCare is a good option for people who want to discuss their herpes and other STD risks with a health professional. It is not a good option for people who are interested in at-home herpes testing because they’re not comfortable talking about sexual health with their doctor.

HealthLabs.com: Best for Private Pay

HealthLabs.com

HealthLabs.com 

Why We Chose It: HealthLabs.com offers a price guarantee. If you find the test that you ordered for a lower price elsewhere, it will match that price and provide a 10% discount.

Pros
  • Price Guarantee

  • Has a variety of testing options that include at-home herpes testing

  • Tests are run at the same labs that doctors use

Cons
  • Offer single type-specific tests for HSV-1 or HSV-2, which some people might choose to save money, not realizing that both viruses can infect the genitals

  • No medical consultation included, although patients can get help interpreting results

With HealthLabs.com, your order and pay for your test online and then go to a local lab to have your blood drawn. Thousands of testing locations are available around the country, and you should be able to find a site near you. Some locations may allow you to make an appointment in advance for testing so that you don’t have to wait once you get there. Then when you arrive, they will draw your blood and send it off for testing.

The least expensive herpes test that looks for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 is $130, and a variety of other testing options are available as well. FSA cards can be used for purchase. When your test results are available, generally within 1-3 days, you will be sent email instructions to log into your secure online account and access your results. With this company, medical consultations are not available, although it will offer help understanding your test results over the phone or through live chat.

What Is Herpes?

Herpes is a general term that is most often used to describe genital infection with Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1) or 2 (HSV-2). Both viruses can infect the genitals, causing genital herpes. HSV-1 is responsible for most cases of oral herpes. It is far less common for HSV-2 to cause oral herpes infection. Although historically HSV-1 has been referred to as the cold sore virus and HSV-2 as the genital herpes virus, in recent years growing numbers of genital herpes infections have been caused by HSV-1.

Callout:

An oral herpes infection can be transmitted to a partner’s genitals through oral sex.

How Does the At-Home Herpes Test Work?

At-home herpes tests take advantage of the fact that blood tests for herpes are widely available through commercial lab-testing sites. The vast majority of at-home herpes tests use the same tests that would be ordered at the doctor’s office, provided by the same laboratories. However, instead of going to a doctor, the tests are ordered online. This can be a good option for people who are uncomfortable discussing sexual behavior with their doctor or whose doctor is not willing to test for herpes.

Are At-Home Herpes Tests Reliable?

At-home herpes tests are reasonably reliable at detecting established herpes infections. Good at-home herpes tests are the same type-specific tests that would be ordered in a doctor’s office. These tests rely on your body having time to produce antibodies so that they can be detected. It can take up to four months after infection for these tests to be able to detect an infection. If you are newly experiencing sores that you think might be herpes, you would be better off going to the doctor for a physical exam. Doctors can generally recognize herpes by the look of the sore, and the sore can also be tested directly for viruses using a viral culture. This can be more reliable for a new herpes infection. However, viral culture is very sensitive to the stage of healing. It is most effective on new sores.

How Much Do At-Home Herpes Tests Cost?

Most insurance companies do not cover herpes testing, either at-home or in-person. At-home test costs average around $120 to $130, although some companies offer a discount for people who subscribe to regular testing. If your insurance does cover herpes testing, consider using one of the companies that bill insurance. This may be able to significantly reduce your cost. In certain cases, you may be able to get reimbursed by your insurance company for testing.

Does Medicare Cover At-Home Herpes Tests?

Medicare does not cover at-home herpes tests. In fact, Medicare does not cover herpes testing at all, although it will cover testing for other STDs. It is possible that some at-home herpes tests can be covered by private insurance, and Nurx.com accepts Medicaid but only in three states (California, Illinois, and Texas). For people who want to try to have their herpes test covered by insurance, it may be easier to go to their doctor or local STD clinic. Planned Parenthood and other Title X clinics may also offer free, or low-cost STD testing, including testing for herpes. However, insurance coverage of herpes testing may be limited to people who have symptoms.

How We Chose the Best At-Home Herpes Tests

The at-home herpes test providers chosen for this list had to meet several criteria. First and foremost, the test used to detect the virus had to be highly reliable. That means laboratories had to use one of the type-specific herpes tests that are considered to be the gold-standard for herpes blood tests. (Herpes blood tests that are not type-specific are less reliable.) Test kits had to look for both HSV-1 and HSV-2, because both types of virus can cause genital infections, and HSV-2 testing alone can be misleading. The company had to offer counseling or access to a doctor at the time that results were received, in order to enable people to seek appropriate care. Finally, results from all providers had to be returned in a secure and timely manner. As most people interested in at-home herpes tests are doing so because of privacy concerns, companies had to take those concerns seriously.

More than 20 companies that offer at-home herpes tests were reviewed for this list. Tests were only eligible for inclusion if they met all of the above requirements.

A Word From VeryWell

Medical professionals do not recommend that people without symptoms be tested for herpes. For people who do have symptoms, seeing a doctor is the best way to be diagnosed. At-home herpes tests are considered unreliable by medical professionals. In addition, blood tests are not suitable for detecting new infections. Should you choose to use an at-home test, we recommend you consult a doctor for interpretation of test results, confirmation of results, and advice regarding the best ways to manage herpes.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Yousuf W, Ibrahim H, Harfouche M, Abu Hijleh F, Abu-Raddad L. Herpes simplex virus type 1 in Europe: systematic review, meta-analyses and meta-regressions. BMJ Glob Health. 2020;5(7):e002388. doi:10.1136/bmjgh-2020-002388