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At-home medical testing is becoming more popular, and people can now purchase HIV tests to take at home. Studies have found numerous benefits to home HIV testing, stating that they can be accurate. However, there has been no definite conclusion on the accuracy of home HIV tests to date.

Not everyone who is at risk of HIV has access to a doctors’ office to get tested. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one at-home test for HIV — the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test.

While nonapproved rapid tests or mail-in tests are available, research has not reached a consensus on the accuracy of home HIV tests.

This article explores what a person needs to know about at-home HIV tests, including where to find them, their reliability, and when to see a doctor.

The FDA says that 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that around 1 of 7 of those with HIV do not realize they have it.

The CDC recommends that people in the U.S. between the ages of 13 and 64 years get tested at least once. They also state that people with higher risk factors for HIV should receive testing more often, including individuals who:

  • have sex without condoms
  • have sex with multiple partners, particularly those that may have acquired the infection
  • inject drugs using shared needles

Each home HIV test may work differently depending on the brand.

The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test includes everything a person needs to test themselves at home, including:

  • a test stick to collect a saliva sample
  • a test tube for the test stick
  • testing directions and information booklets
  • a disposal bag
  • phone numbers for consumer support

According to the FDA, the test requires a person to swab their upper and lower gums. Once they collect a sample, they place the stick into the test tube. The test then provides a negative or positive result within 20–40 minutes. While positive results do not necessarily mean a person has contracted HIV, an individual receiving a positive result should contact a doctor for further testing and advice on what to do next.

At-home HIV tests may provide an effective tool to test for possible HIV exposure. A 2019 review into the benefits of home HIV tests found the following benefits:

  • early identification of acute HIV infection
  • increased likelihood that individuals would take preventative action against HIV
  • a reduction in sexual behaviors that put a person at risk of HIV

Another 2019 study concluded that home HIV tests should become a staple option to increase the number of people being tested and empower those wishing to take an HIV test.

According to a 2018 review, there has been much debate over the effectiveness of home HIV tests. However, the review found that the majority of people could use the test accurately at home.

The FDA says that the approved OraQuick test is only effective after 3 months following exposure to the virus, and around 1 in 12 people will receive a false negative.

A person should contact a doctor if they receive a positive test to confirm the results and discuss any required follow-up treatments.

Other tests may have similar reliability scores. If a person has concerns about their results, they may wish to undergo a new test or contact a doctor.

There are several at-home HIV tests available — each offers similar services and vary on price and testing procedures.

Please note, the writer has not tested these products. All information is research-based.

LetsGetChecked

LetsGetChecked offers a variety of home tests that they send directly to a person’s home.

The company offers an HIV test as part of two different assessment bundles: the Standard 5 bundle tests for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis. The Complete 8 tests for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, syphilis, Gardnerella, mycoplasma, and ureaplasma.

The company advises people take their test in the morning and send their samples back to the LetsGetChecked laboratories on the same day.

According to LetsGetChecked, their labs have received approval from Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments and accreditation by the College of American Pathologists.

The company also claims that a person’s privacy is protected, as they send the tests using discreet packaging, while results are available to customers via their secure online account.

Each testing pack provides complete instructions for the test and how to send samples back to the lab.

Learn more about LetsGetChecked here.

OraQuick In-Home HIV Test

OraQuick is the first FDA-approved home HIV test. According to the company, the test is the same one that healthcare professionals have used for many years.

A person needs to use an oral swab to perform the test. They take and test a sample home, while results are usually available within 20–40 minutes.

An individual’s purchase of this HIV test is kept confidential on bank statements, while the company sends these tests using discreet packaging.

According to OraQuick, shipping of tests takes 2–10 days.

A person should talk to their doctor about any positive HIV test results, as they may need to undergo additional assessments to confirm.

Health Testing Centers

Health Testing Centers offer a large variety of home HIV tests. A person can choose from single HIV tests or packages that include testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

The company claim that the type of test they provide is the type recommended by the CDC.

Health Testing Centers also say the single HIV test works within 18–45 days following exposure to the virus.

Once a person selects the test they want, they choose which lab they wish to send their test to once completed.

Individuals can pick up the test in person from the lab or have it mailed to them. Once they complete the test, they need to send the sample to their nominated lab, after which they should receive their results within 1–3 business days.

The CDC recommend everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 years receive HIV testing at least once if they are at low risk of contracting HIV. Those at higher risk may wish to get tested more frequently.

The CDC also recommend that individuals ask themselves several questions about their behaviors and get tested if they answer yes to one or more of the questions:

  • Have they had recent sexual intercourse with someone with HIV?
  • Have they had any sexual partners since their last HIV test?
  • Are they a male who has had sex with other males?
  • Have they shared needles while injecting drugs?
  • Have they exchanged sex for drugs or money?
  • Have they had a previous diagnosis of hepatitis or tuberculosis?
  • Have they had a diagnosis of or treatment for another sexually transmitted infection?
  • Have they had sex with people who could answer yes to any of the above questions?

Learn about HIV screening here.

A person who engages in sexual contact with several people or uses recreational drugs with others may need to be aware of the initial HIV symptoms.

Not all individuals with the virus will show symptoms. However, if a person does develop symptoms, they can include:

Symptoms can occur within 2–4 weeks after exposure to the virus and may last a few days to a few weeks.

Learn more about HIV symptoms here.

A positive HIV result does not necessarily mean a person has contracted the virus.

Instead, these results indicate that individuals should consult with a doctor and undergo further testing if required.

They may also wish to speak with a healthcare professional if they experience flu-like symptoms within 2–4 weeks of potential exposure to the virus.

HIV tests may help people detect and begin treatment for HIV. There is currently one FDA-approved test — the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, but other nonapproved tests are available to purchase online.

A positive HIV test result does not necessarily mean a person has contracted HIV.

An individual may wish to follow up with a doctor after receiving a positive HIV result, particularly if they believe they are at a high risk of acquiring the virus.