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At-home medical testing is becoming more popular, and people can now purchase HIV tests to use 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 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. However, some studies point to home tests having slightly less accurate results than a doctor’s office.

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

HIV.gov states that an estimated 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that around 1 in 7 individuals 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. The CDC also states 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

A person can choose from two types of at-home HIV tests:

  • Mail-in kit: These kits typically include a finger prick and packaging to send the specimen into a lab for testing. The labs then send the results to a website, app, or a person’s doctor directly. They may also include expert analysis.
  • Rapid self-test: These tests do not require sending a sample. Instead, a person can take an oral fluid sample for results within 20–40 minutes.

A person can purchase either type at a pharmacy or online. However, a person’s state of residence may affect which tests are available.

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
  • telephone 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 the next steps.

Other tests require a person to take a small sample of blood, often from their finger. They then need to send the sample to a lab that processes the results and shares them, often through an app or website login.

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 advantages:

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

A 2018 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 that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best for a comprehensive test: LetsGetChecked

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

Learn more about LetsGetChecked.

The company offers an HIV test as part of two different assessment bundles:

The company advises people to take the 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 return samples to the lab.

Price: The cost of LetsGetChecked Home HIV Testing starts from $149.

Pros

  • LetsGetChecked has nurses available to follow up on positive test results.
  • The company offers two products for a wider range of STI testing.

Cons

  • The company’s STI tests may be more expensive than some of its competitors.

Best for fast results: OraQuick In-Home HIV Test

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

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

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

According to OraQuick, shipping takes 2–10 days.

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

Price: OraQuick In-Home HIV Test costs $38.99.

Pros

  • This test requires an oral swab, which may be more comfortable to collect.
  • This test is FDA-approved.
  • People will receive their results within 40 minutes.

Cons

  • Free shipping can take up to 10 days, which may be unsuitable for people who require quick testing.

Best for lab collection: Health Testing Centers

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

The company claims that its test is the type the CDC recommends.

Health Testing Centers also says 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 collect the test in person from the lab or receive it in the mail. 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.

Price: Health Testing Centers HIV tests start at $79.

Pros

  • People can choose which lab to send results to based on location and cost.
  • This test can screen for HIV 18–45 days following exposure.

Cons

  • People cannot take this test at home and must attend a lab so a technician can collect a sample.

Best for subscribing and saving: myLAB Box

myLAB Box offers an HIV Home Test along with several other kits for checking for STIs.

The test requires a person to take a blood sample via a finger prick and send the sample to the lab. The company states a person will receive their results within 2–5 business days.

People interested in the test can choose between a one-time order or a subscription. A subscription may save money long term, especially for those who may have a higher risk of exposure.

Additionally, myLAB Box offers a physician consultation upon a positive test result.

Price: myLab Box HIV test kit costs $79.

Pros

  • People will receive their test results within 5 days of the company receiving their sample.
  • myLAB Box offers a consultation with a physician if a person receives a positive test result.

Cons

  • This test is not available in all states.
  • This test requires a finger prick, which some people may find unpleasant or difficult to collect.

Best for a more affordable test: Everlywell HIV Test

Everlywell offers a variety of at-home tests, including an HIV test.

Learn more about Everlywell.

This test requires a finger-prick blood sample. Individuals then send their sample to a certified lab. The company will disclose the results within a few days of receiving the sample via a secure portal on its website.

People can purchase a one-off test kit. Additionally, they can become a member of Everlywell and receive a small discount on all test kit prices.

Price: Everlywell HIV Test costs $49.

Pros

  • People will receive their test results within a few days of sending a sample via a secure portal.
  • People can become a member to receive a discount on test kits.

Cons

  • This test requires a finger-prick blood sample, which some may find unpleasant or difficult to collect.

The CDC recommends everyone aged 13–64 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 recommends 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 STI?
  • 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.

The following are the answers to some common questions about HIV home tests.

Who should use at-home HIV testing?

According to the CDC, everyone should get tested at least once between 13–64 years.

However, people who may be at higher risk of contracting HIV should have regular testing. Risk factors that may indicate a person needs more frequent testing include:

  • having multiple sexual partners
  • sharing needles for injectable drugs
  • having a history of STIs
  • males who have sex with males
  • having a history of TB or hepatitis
  • having sex of any kind with someone living with HIV
  • exchanging sex for drugs or money

Additionally, people who have sex with a person who has these risk factors is also at a higher risk of contracting HIV.

How often should I test myself for HIV?

According to the CDC, a person should test for HIV at different intervals depending on different factors, including their age and sexual orientation.

Everyone 13–64 years of age should receive HIV testing at least once during their lifetime. People who are pregnant should also receive HIV testing in early pregnancy, and people who meet certain risk factors may require further testing.

Males who have sex with males should receive testing for HIV at least once per year. Some people may require more regular testing, such as once every 3–6 months.

Additionally, people who share or use needles for injectable drugs should receive HIV testing once a year.

Are at-home HIV tests accurate?

The accuracy of an at-home HIV test can depend on how closely a person follows the test kit instructions. Inaccurate results can occur if a person collects a sample incorrectly.

Research suggests that home HIV testing has an accuracy rate of around 92%. In comparison, tests in a doctor’s office are accurate 99% of the time.

Oral rapid tests can produce false positives in 1 out of every 5,000 and false negatives in 1 out of every 12 tests.

A person should follow up with their doctor after any at-home tests, especially if they believe they did not receive accurate results.

HIV tests may help people detect and begin treatment for HIV. Currently, there is 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.