This summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first at home rapid HIV test. The test, produced by OraQuick, can be purchased for about $40 over-the-counter, and used without medical supervision at home. Results are ready in about 20 minutes. The test uses a swab to collect oral fluid that is tested for antibodies that the body produces in response to HIV infection.
Pros and Cons
Many experts herald the approval of the test as a breakthrough in HIV prevention, believing that the at-home HIV test provides more people the option of learning their HIV status, particularly those who may not otherwise elect to get tested in a clinical environment.
With an estimated one in five HIV-infected individuals unaware of their status, reducing barriers to HIV testing is extremely important. When people know their HIV status, they are able to get life-saving treatment and take measures to prevent transmission to others.
However, some HIV/AIDS advocates do not agree that at-home HIV tests are an effective way of expanding HIV testing. Some worry that by testing at home, people won’t have access to information, support, or additional care – especially those who test positive. There is also concern that people could be pressured or coerced into taking the test or use it as a substitute for practicing safer sex. In response to some of these criticisms, OraQuick has launched a toll-free phone line where testers can call 24/7 to get information and support.
Accuracy and Use
Clinical trials of the at home test have shown that it is not as accurate when administered at home by consumers as it is when administered by professionals. In trials, the self-administered test correctly detected HIV in those with the virus 93% of the time, while it correctly identified HIV-negative users 99% of the time. Those who test positive with the take home rapid test must get a follow up confirmatory test with a medical professional.
Like the OraQuick test used in doctors’ offices, the take-home test has a window period of three months. That means that there is a three month period of time during which HIV may not be detected by the test even if someone has been infected. So, if someone has a potential exposure to HIV in the three months prior to the test, they should get tested again.
If you choose to use the OraQuick take-home test, be sure to completely read the package instructions. OraQuick also has a video about the correct testing procedure and explanation of possible results.
Get yourself tested, and talking!
No matter which testing option you choose, the CHECS (Carolina Health Education Counselors of Sexuality) are a great resource to talk about HIV testing, ways to reduce your risk for HIV, and your HIV status.
In honor of World AIDS Day, UNC Counseling and Wellness Services will be hosting a FREE, Walk-in HIV testing event on campus from 11AM-5PM on November 30th! Please see our event page for more information. Additionally, at UNC Campus Health Services, we offer a rapid oral test (results available in about 20 minutes!), and a blood test. The latter is provided free of charge to students when you get tested with the Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS). More information about HIV testing at UNC is available on the Campus Health webpage; for more information about making an HIV appointment with the Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS) by calling 919.966.3658.
Check out these websites for more information about HIV/AIDS, why you should get tested, and help for those who are newly diagnosed.
OraSure Website: http://www.orasure.com
Positively Aware: http://positivelyaware.com/2012/news_briefs/news_briefs_12_05_03.shtml