HIV is a disease that can wreak havoc on a person’s life if not quickly diagnosed and adequately treated. Luckily, people who suffer from the condition have been able to receive better and better treatment over the past few decades. This has led to sufferers now having a life expectancy close to those who don’t have the illness.
Routine testing is essential to this, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending that people receive an HIV test if they’re between the ages of 13 and 64. The regularity of these can depend on a variety of factors, such as a person’s sexual proclivity, how many sexual partners they’ve had, and much more.
This doesn’t mean that a person will have to go out of their way to receive these tests. While speaking to a medical professional is recommended, especially if you believe you suffer from any of the symptoms of HIV, there are several home tests that you can buy.
These can offer a variety of benefits, with the most notable being convenience, and they can offer as much accuracy as the tests carried out by a doctor.
Types Of Home HIV Tests
While there are several home HIV tests available on the market, there are two main ones that are recommended and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. These are the Home Access HIV-1 Test System and the OraQuick HIV Test Kit.
This means that these two kits are the ones you should purchase if you’re looking to test yourself for the condition. Before you do, you should be informed about what they are and how they work so that you can accurately and effectively test for the disease.
Home Access HIV-1 Test System
This was the first home HIV testing kit approved by the FDA and can be quite extensive, which makes it incredibly accurate. Released in 1996, this requires a blood sample to be sent to a lab for testing, although the process doesn’t stop there.
Before you can use the kit, you’ll first need to register for it by using an anonymous code and calling a toll-free number. Alongside this, you’ll be expected to undergo a pre-counseling session, and a brief interview focused on your demographics.
While this may seem overwhelming, anonymity is ensured throughout the process, so people who want to receive the test. Once these processes have been completed, the blood sample will need to be collected and sent to the lab for testing.
Receiving the results shouldn’t take long, as they’re typically available the day after the lab receives the blood sample. To be informed about the results, people who have had the test will need to call the same toll-free number as before and give them their anonymous code.
Before the results are given out, the manufacturer of the Home Access HIV-1 Test System will double-check them. This typically means that re-testing shouldn’t be needed, especially if it’s negative.
Should you receive a positive, then it’s recommended that you book an appointment with a medical professional as quickly as possible. This is so you can have another exam done to double-check the results and then begin your treatment.
OraQuick HIV Test Kit
The OraQuick HIV Test Kit is much more recent than its alternative and was first released onto the market in 2013. The test offers a significant amount of benefits compared to its predecessor, with the most notable of these being speed as results are typically made available within 40 minutes.
You will have to collect a saliva sample by swabbing both your upper and lower guns, with the swab then being placed in a testing solution. Between 20 and 40 minutes later, the reaction in this solution should be complete, and you will be able to see your results.
This offers much more privacy and convenience than many other forms of testing, although it’s recommended that you see a medical professional or visit a clinic should if you receive a positive result. This is so you can undergo a follow-up test to confirm the results and then begin receiving treatment.
The manufacturer of the testing device has a 24-hour counseling service available, which is also toll-free. It’s recommended that you take advantage of this, as they’ll be able to help you find a local clinic to double-check results and begin testing. They should also help you through the shock, you may feel if you receive a positive diagnosis.
There are quite a significant number of home HIV tests available, especially online. It should be noted, however, that these haven’t been approved for use by the FDA. This means that the results of them may not be accurate, so they should be avoided at all costs.
To receive an accurate diagnosis, you should choose one of the above kits or speak to a medical professional.
How Effective Are They?
When it comes to diagnosing an illness such as HIV, many people will worry about the accuracy of such as test. This is why the majority of people choose to be tested by a medical professional instead of using a home HIV test, as they can rest assured that the results are accurate.
When it comes to the OraQuick HIV Test Kit and Home Access HIV-1 Test System, there are differences in the accuracy of results. This is because the OraQuick kit’s findings are based on the reactions of your saliva in a solution as based on how you see them.
In contrast, the Home Access system uses your blood and is analyzed by a medical professional, which can often mean that it’s much more accurate. Both of these tests are 99.9% accurate when detecting negative results.
However, there is a noticeable gap when it comes to diagnosing positive results; while the Home Access HIV-1 Test System has a 99.7% accuracy rating for this, the OraQuick HIV Test Kit positively identifies the illness 91.7% of the time.
This means that a significant portion of those who receive a result could be getting a false negative. This means that, though the test will say ‘negative,’ they will actually be HIV-positive. There are a variety of obvious reasons why this should be avoided.
Pros & Cons Of A Home HIV Kit
There can be a variety of benefits to using a home HIV testing kit, which is why many people have used them in the past. Outside of being much more convenient than visiting a doctor or clinic, these include:
- Anonymity and privacy;
- Quick and easy to use, and;
- Increased potential for access to HIV testing.
While the benefits can be attractive for many people who want to be tested, there can be a variety of drawbacks that people should be aware of. Many of these have been highlighted by several studies, which is why you may need to think twice before using a home test. These include:
- The potential for inaccuracy with the OraQuick HIV Test Kit;
- A reduction in accuracy when compared to tests done by a medical professional, with some reports suggesting that accuracy drops from 99.3% to 92.9%. This could lead to false negatives.
- The HIV virus can be in the bloodstream but not yet have the level of antibodies needed to be detected by a home testing kit. This could have a further impact on the number of false negatives. The disease can still be passed on during this time, which is why its recommended that you get tested by a doctor.
You should keep all of the above in mind when deciding whether you should choose to be tested by a medical professional or use a home HIV test kit. The consequences of a false negative can be significant, both for you and anybody you may pass the disease on to.
Receiving effective treatment often means catching the illness early. This means that you should receive a test that’s as accurate as possible. Should you choose to go with an in-home test, then it’s recommended that you pick the Home Access HIV-1 Test System, as it’s been shown to be much more reliable.
Cost & Availability
Purchasing either of the tests is straightforward, as both should be available at a drug store without the need for a prescription and can also be purchased online. This means that you should have no problem purchasing either of them whenever you need.
The OraQuick is available in drugstores for $43.99 or can be bought from the company’s website for $39.99, plus handling and shipping. If you’re worried about privacy, then you shouldn’t need to when buying from the company’s website.
This is because OraQuick uses unmarked packaging, so nobody should be able to identify that it’s an HIV test.
You will be able to purchase the Home Access HIV-1 Test System either in-store or from their website, with the kit costing $59.99. Should you be buying online, then you may need to pay for shipping and handling.
These kits can also be available for a variety of other online retailers. However, it’s not recommended that you choose one of these, as they may not be the actual product. You should be able to find a list of either company’s official online retailers by researching them online.
Should you buy one from a company that isn’t officially approved, then you may run the risk of the test itself being much more inaccurate than the official product. This should be avoided.
Who Should Use Them?
There are a variety of people who may want to use an HIV test. These are typically people who want to keep their medical conditions as private as possible. People who live in remote areas who may not have access to sexual health clinics may also want to take advantage of the kits.
Alongside this, you should consider using one if you’re either:
- Someone without much flexibility in schedule, or;
- Someone who engages in activity that may be deemed high-risk for HIV and have never been tested.
This could naturally lead to many people wondering what may be considered high-risk for behavior for developing the condition. Several things may do so, including:
- Trading sex for money or drugs;
- IV drug use and the sharing of needles, and;
- Having unprotected sex with somebody without knowing their HIV status or if you know they’re HIV-positive.
If you’ve engaged in any of these behaviors, then it’s recommended that you get tested for the condition as soon as possible. There are also a variety of symptoms that you should look out for, including:
- Swollen glands;
- Mouth sores;
- Night sweats;
- Muscle aches;
- Sore throat;
- A rash;
Should you experience a combination of the above, then you should get tested for HIV as soon as possible.
What Do The Results Mean?
There are two results that you will receive, either a positive or a negative. What you should do once you’ve received the results can often depend on which of the kits you’ve used. If you’ve tested positive when an OraQuick HIV test kit, then you may need to receive another test to confirm the diagnosis.
This should typically be done in a clinic or with a medical professional. If you receive a positive diagnosis with the Home Access HIV-1 Test System, then you should speak to a medical professional as soon as possible.
In either case, if you’ve received a positive diagnosis, then you’ll need to visit a clinic. While there, the medical provider will typically perform another test to confirm the results. A negative result shouldn’t require any further action.
Should you receive an HIV-positive diagnosis, then there are several things that you can do alongside receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). This includes being tested for any other STIs and STDs.
You should also avoid or minimize anything that may suppress your immune system, even slightly. This includes drug use, drinking to excess, and smoking. You may also want to take advantage of any counseling that may be on offer.
It should also be noted that one negative result doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have HIV. Depending on the test that you received, then it’s possible that you may have gotten a false negative. This means that you should be tested regularly, especially if you’re considered at-risk.