Accuracy and trust of self-testing for bacterial vaginosis

J Adolesc Health. 2012 Oct;51(4):400-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.01.017. Epub 2012 Mar 21.


Purpose: Two point-of-care tests are available to detect bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common vaginal condition. This study aimed to (1) compare the accuracy of two self-performed BV tests with clinician-performed BV tests and with clinical diagnosis of BV; and (2) compare trust of results for self-performed BV testing with clinician-performed BV testing.

Methods: Participants (14-22 years old) in a study assessing self-testing for Trichomonas vaginalis were also asked to perform a self-test for BV (using a pH or sialidase test). Results were compared with clinician-performed tests and with clinical diagnosis of BV (defined by modified Amsel criteria). A two-item subscale from a larger acceptability scale was used to assess trust at baseline, after testing, and after discussion of results.

Results: All 131 women performed self-BV testing correctly. Agreement between self- and clinician-performed tests was good (κ: .5-.7) Compared with clinical diagnosis of BV, self-pH was 73% sensitive and 67% specific, and self-sialidase was 40% sensitive and 90% specific. Trust in self-performed BV testing was lower than trust in clinician-performed BV testing at baseline, but increased after testing and discussion of results.

Conclusions: Young women can perform self-tests for BV with reasonable accuracy, which could increase testing when pelvic examinations are not feasible. Trust in self-testing increased after experience and after discussion of test results. Although the pH test is available over the counter, young women may continue to rely on clinicians for testing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Self Care / standards*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Trichomonas vaginalis / isolation & purification*
  • Trust*
  • Vaginosis, Bacterial / diagnosis*
  • Young Adult