Even a pandemic can’t dull the excitement of connecting with a new romantic partner. But when the time comes for the two of you to become psychically intimate, it’s smart to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infections. That’s where COVID-19 gets in the way: With many clinics and providers offering limited hours or requiring long waits for appointments, you might assume that getting tested for peace of mind will have to wait. Fortunately, there’s another way to clear the testing hurdle.
At-home STD tests can offer privacy and accuracy, enabling both you and your partner to get checked and know your STD status before you get intimate. Here’s a look at why you should consider them, especially now.
Related article: 9 Surprising Facts About STDs
STDs Under the Radar
Because of pandemic restrictions, many people are visiting their providers less often for what they consider to be non-urgent concerns. That includes STD testing,[1, 2] says Christine Greves, M.D., who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology at Orlando Health in Florida.[2, 3] It doesn’t mean there are fewer infections, she believes—it just means the infections may be going undetected.
Even before the pandemic, STDs were on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chlamydia rates increased by 19% between 2014 and 2018. And in the same time period, other STDs soared: Gonorrhea cases rose by 63% and syphilis cases by 71%.
Having one type of STD could make you more prone to others. Trichomoniasis, for example, can cause genital inflammation that makes it easier to get infected with HIV, or to pass the HIV virus to a partner. The CDC reports that there were an estimated 2.6 million trichomoniasis infections in the U.S. in 2018.[5,6]
Related article: What Happens When You Leave an STD Unchecked?
Sex in Lockdown: A Yen For Adventure
The pandemic hasn’t stifled sexual desires, even though it may have thwarted our ability to act on them. In fact, a recent Kinsey Institute research report noted that people who were younger lived alone, and felt stressed during the pandemic reported being more willing to try new things, including being sexually adventurous. 
This (fortunately for our current times) doesn’t mean a surge in recreational sex, though. Many reported having fewer partners—no doubt due to social distancing—but being more open to adding to the quality of their sex lives.
Even as many are thinking about ways to spice up their intimacy, they’re not losing sight of safe sex. Perhaps now more than ever, partners want to reduce risk. Committing to safe practices, like using condoms, is important. But it’s also crucial to ensure that both partners are free from sexually transmitted infections. That’s where at-home STD testing can come in.
The Benefits of At-Home Testing
A recent report from the National Coalition of STD Directors highlighted how at-home testing has emerged as a viable alternative to in-person STD testing — and in the case of a positive result, telehealth services can help with treatment options.
“COVID-19 has impacted testing everywhere, especially with places like community clinics, which do quite a bit of STD testing,” says CDC advisor Richard Jimenez, Ph.D., a core faculty member in the College of Health Professions at Walden University.[10, 11] “That has caused everyone to pivot in different ways, patients and clinicians alike. That’s putting a stronger focus on testing done from home.”
Getting insight on several STDs from one home test can be convenient, private, and more cost-effective. For example, LetsGetChecked offers the Complete 10, a home test designed to detect 10 common sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, HIV, syphilis, and herpes.
With results provided discreetly in two to five days, online testing is key to making sure you and your partner are practicing safe sex — with no need to make an appointment or visit the clinic.
Related article: 5 Sexually Transmitted Diseases You Might Not Know You Have
CDC / Guidance and Resources During Disruption of STD Clinical Services
Dr. Christine Greves
Orlando Health / Christine Carlan Greves, MD - Obstetrics & Gynecology
CDC: Trichomoniasis Statistics
https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stats.htm#:~:text=February 13%2C 2013)-,Prevalence,participated%20in%20NHANES%202013%2D2016
CDC: Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet
Justin J. Lehmiller, Justin R. Garcia, Amanda N. Gesselman & Kristen P. Mark
Less Sex, but More Sexual Diversity: Changes in Sexual Behavior during the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic
Leisure Sciences Published online: 26 Jun 2020 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01490400.2020.1774016
CDC: The Lowdown on How to Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases
National Coalition of STD Directors
Sexual Health Clinics and Our Nation’s COVID-19 Response
Dr. Richard Jimenez
via Karen Robinson