Among the more remarkable legacies of the covid-19 pandemic is how quickly federal regulators, the health care industry, and consumers moved to make at-home testing a reliable tool for managing a public health crisis.
But that fast-track focus is missing from another, less publicized epidemic: an explosion in sexually transmitted diseases that can cause chronic pain and infertility among infected adults and disable or kill infected newborns. The disparity has amplified calls from researchers, public health advocates, and health care companies urging the federal government to greenlight at-home testing kits that could vastly multiply the number of Americans testing for STDs.
Online shoppers can already choose from more than a dozen self-testing kits, typically ranging in price from $69 to $500, depending on the brand and the variety of infections they can detect.
But, except for HIV tests, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved STD test kits for use outside a medical setting. That leaves consumers unsure about their reliability even as at-home use grows dramatically.
The STD epidemic is “out of control,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. “We know we are missing diagnoses. We know that contact tracing is happening late or not at all. If we’re really serious about tackling the STD crisis, we have to get more people diagnosed.”
Preliminary data for 2021 showed nearly 2.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, go …