If you think you might have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS, you need to find out for sure. Fortunately, there's a quick, reliable, and completely confidential way to know whether or not you carry the virus. You don't have to schedule a doctor's appointment or get a referral from a clinic. You don't even have to leave your house. You can buy the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This easy-to-use test has given many people peace of mind about HIV. It has also helped many others start the treatment they need to keep the infection under control.
How does the test work?
Unlike much older home tests, the kit does not require you to send a sample to a lab. It tests fluid from the mouth and delivers results in 20 to 40 minutes.
The test checks for antibodies -- the proteins the body creates to fight off an infection -- to HIV. As the FDA explains:
"The kit contains a test stick you use to swab your upper and lower gums to collect an oral fluid sample from your mouth. The stick is then placed in a tube with a testing solution. After 20 to 40 minutes, one line will appear if the test is negative. Two lines indicate that HIV antibodies were detected and that you may be HIV positive. If the home test is positive, a follow-up laboratory test will need to be done to confirm the results."
Which test can I trust?
The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, which was approved in 2012, is the only HIV test approved by the FDA that people can use to test themselves at home or in a private location.
If I test positive with the OraQuick home HIV test, do I definitely have HIV?
No, there is a chance you have a false positive. Clinical studies show that the OraQuick test results in one false positive result out of about every 5,000 tests in uninfected individuals. That's why you need to have the test confirmed in a laboratory. The OraQuick Consumer Support Center has counselors available 24 hours a day to talk with you and give you one or more local referrals for follow-up testing and care.
What are some of the disadvantages of the home test?
While the OraQuick test has some advantages -- ease, anonymity, accuracy -- it has some potential drawbacks, too. Perhaps most important, people who get tested for HIV at a hospital or health clinic have face-to-face contact with a health professional who can answer questions and offer advice.
Still, the OraQuick inhome test can be a valuable tool. Checking for HIV at home is infinitely better than not getting tested at all.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Facts About In-Home HIV Testing.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Self-Testing Basics. Frequently asked questions.