Modern Technology in HIV Testing Takes Another Leap

Prevention Counseling

Initially, when HIV testing began in the early 1980s, it would take up to two weeks to obtain results from your primary care physician. During these two agonizing weeks, individuals had to suffer and lose countless hours of sleep wondering "if" -- the "if " being, "Am I HIV positive?" Waiting this long for results can take a toll on a person's physical and mental well-being.

Then in the late 1990s came the OraSure oral testing device, which required giving a saliva sample from the mouth. Results were obtained within three to five days. This helped to cut out a week of worrying, but it still gave a person time to ponder the "if." Not only did the oral swab test give individuals time to process the possibility of a positive test result, but it also gave them time to chicken out and not go back for the results. This was a challenge for AIDS service organizations across the country. How do we encourage people to return for their results?

This also caused a big increase in HIV infection because many individuals who had tested positive had not returned for their results and passed the virus on to someone else! Many ideas were tossed around to meet this challenge, such as offering different types of incentives or meeting the people where they are. These ideas worked for some, but ultimately they did not put a big dent in decreasing the numbers of individuals who were tested but did not return for their results.

Modern Technology in HIV Testing Takes Another Leap

Thanks to OraSure Technologies, we now have a solution to that problem. OraQuick was introduced in 2002 as a new testing device that would process a small droplet of blood in 20 minutes. Individuals can get their results in one visit. Great! But there was still one dilemma. The person had to be stuck with a needle. Beyond that, there was the question: Was this person ready to hear the results right away? It seems to be that no matter how much modern technology has attempted to make it easy for individuals to take an HIV test, there always seems to be some sort of roadblock. It is obvious that everyone cannot be satisfied, but effort has been made to accommodate the majority.

Now, OraSure Technologies has come up with another answer. In November 2004, the company introduced another device, called the OraQuick Advance Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test. What is OraQuick Advance? It is used to see if a sample of oral fluid or blood contains HIV antibodies. What does this mean? It means that once upon a time it would take an oral sample three to five days to be processed in a lab, but now it can be processed in 20 minutes in many different settings. Results can be obtained in one visit.

With this new technology, more and more individuals can be tested and obtain results more quickly than before, without having to wait several days or longer. And they have the option of giving either a sample of oral fluid or blood. The more important thing now is how eager an individual is to know their results right away -- but that's the issue for pre- and post-test counselors. At least the new technology has helped answer the challenge of making sure people obtain their results.