July 31, 2012
Theresa Mack, M.D., M.P.H.
Every month, HIV specialist Theresa Mack, M.D., M.P.H. -- an associate medical director at St. Luke's Medical Group in Harlem, N.Y. -- will answer your most pressing HIV/AIDS questions.
In July 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, which lets Americans learn their HIV status in the privacy of their homes. Any intervention that may increase the number of people getting tested for HIV is a great development because the earlier you know your status, the sooner you get into treatment.
Not only does early treatment keep you healthy longer, but studies have shown that those who are in treatment are less likely to transmit HIV to others. If you choose the in-home HIV test, you should know the following important facts:
There are a number of reasons that an in-home test can yield inaccurate results:
The OraQuick In-Home HIV test will be available in October 2012 at more than 30,000 retail outlets across the country, including CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Rite Aid. The price has not yet been finalized, though it is expected to be more than the $17.50 that medical professionals currently pay for it. There has even been some speculation that the price could be as high as $60, since OraSure will be incurring additional costs with the release of the kit, such as those associated with setting up a 24-hour hotline for testers to call after they get their results. The kit may appeal to people who would rather find out about a potential HIV diagnosis alone and to those in rural areas who are unable to easily get to an HIV-testing site.
To use the kit, follow the instructions and diagrams in the package. Apply a cotton swab to the upper and lower gums and place it in a liquid-containing test tube for 20 to 40 minutes. The test measures whether the oral sample contains HIV antibodies, which are special proteins produced in the bodies of people who are HIV positive to fight the infection.
As with a home pregnancy test, one or two lines will appear in a small window on the device to indicate your results. One line would indicate that no HIV antibodies were identified, while two lines would indicate the possible identification of HIV antibodies. Again, this is a preliminary-positive test, and its results must be confirmed by a blood test done by a health-care professional.
OraSure will be providing that 24-hour hotline to answer your questions about HIV/AIDS, counseling and being linked to a medical facility for the confirmation of a preliminary-positive test. Even if your confirmatory blood test is positive, try not to panic. With current antiretrovirals, you can still live a long, productive life.
Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who writes frequently about health and wellness.