If you believe you may have been exposed to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), it is important to take an HIV test. HIV can be detected and diagnosed using blood or oral fluid tests. One particular oral fluid test, the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, can offer preliminary results within an hour. It uses oral fluids (similar to saliva), which may indicate the presence of HIV in your body.
Notably, the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test Kit is the only HIV self-test on the market approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that can provide you with same-day results.
If you are interested in trying the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, you may have questions. Here’s what you need to know to decide whether you want to use this test and to make sure you use it correctly.
The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test is an at-home HIV self-test. As its name implies, this kit provides you with a way to test yourself for HIV from home. Since the test relies on a sample of oral fluid rather than a blood sample, it is easy for you to administer to yourself.
Oral fluid comes from around your gums and is slightly different from saliva. This fluid contains antibodies, so it can be tested for antibodies that are found if the body is fighting HIV.
The test provides results within 40 minutes. This means that it is faster than some other types of HIV tests (particularly traditional blood tests, which must be sent away to a lab).
The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test looks for antibodies specific to HIV. When you’re exposed to the virus, your body produces antibodies in order to fight it off. Over time, the concentration of these antibodies rises high enough that the test can detect them.
Most blood tests for HIV infection are antigen/antibody tests. These not only look for the antibodies discussed above but also for antigens (a protein part of the virus).
When the body has picked up HIV, a certain viral protein called p24 becomes detectable in the blood. This occurs before antibodies develop, which means that an antigen blood test may detect HIV before antibody-only tests do. There are also blood tests called nucleic acid tests (or NATs), which look for the presence of the viral genetic material in your bloodstream.
The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test kit comes with a padded wand that you swipe once along both your upper and lower gums. Once you’ve done that, you will insert the wand into the test tube provided, which is labeled “Test Holder.”
Then, you leave the test alone for 20 minutes. You need to come back to read your results between 20 and 40 minutes later, as this is the window period for accuracy — your results may not be accurate if left longer than that.
If your results only show one pink line next to the “C,” then the test is negative. If it also shows a line next to the “T,” then you may have HIV. However, you will need to see a health care professional to have the result of your test confirmed. A positive rapid test alone is not enough to diagnose anyone with HIV, and confirmatory testing is required.
For people with HIV, the OraQuick test gives accurately positive test results 92 percent of the time. This means that approximately 1 out of every 12 tests that should be positive will show a false negative result.
For people who don’t have HIV, the OraQuick test is right 99.98 percent of the time, according to the FDA. This means that only 1 out of 5,000 tests will show a false positive.
The better you follow all the directions on the test, the better chance you have of getting accurate results.
Although these accuracy percentages are high, results can still be confusing. Some myHIVteam members have experienced this, and it can be an emotional roller coaster. One member who had a potential false positive asked, “Can someone please just talk me through this? My nerves are driving me to literally feel sick! I tested yesterday morning with the oral swab, which produced HALF of the T line. My doctor retested me with the rapid test using a blood sample, and it turned up negative.”
Another member received a positive result on the OraQuick test and had it confirmed later. “I decided to get a home HIV test (OraQuick), and it came up positive, so I decided to go to the doctor to get a blood test, and the blood test results came back positive.”
If you do get a positive result on your OraQuick test, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible. They will give you another test so you can determine your HIV status definitively.
The OraQuick test is designed to be used at least three months after exposure to HIV. It can take your body this long to produce enough antibodies for the test to give you a positive result.
Other HIV tests will provide results sooner. These generally must be performed in-person in a clinical setting.
The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test is useful for a variety of populations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that every person between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once. This is because it’s not always obvious when a person has been exposed to HIV, and testing helps screen the general population for the virus. It may also help detect the presence of HIV early on so people can get treatment before the virus causes symptoms or health complications.
The OraQuick test is one convenient way to do these screenings. It allows people to test themselves at home, then seek further help from a medical professional if their HIV test results are positive.
People with more risk factors for HIV should get tested at least yearly. According to HIV.gov, this includes:
The OraQuick test may be useful for people who need to test regularly, including those listed above.
The OraQuick test may not be useful for expanded worldwide testing unless medical staff can confirm any positive test results with follow-up testing. It also may not be the best option for those with possible exposure to HIV in health care settings. Workplaces usually provide testing after these events, and it is usually the kind that is available faster and is more accurate, allowing people who test positive to get HIV treatment earlier.
The OraQuick test is also not for those who have already been diagnosed with HIV. It will not give you information about your viral load or tell you if your medications are working.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with HIV, you may be left with many questions. You can ask these questions and more at myHIVteam — the online social network with more than 35,000 members. Here, people with HIV and those who love them can share their stories, ask for and offer advice, and join ongoing conversations with those who understand life with HIV.
Have you recently been diagnosed with HIV using the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test? Are you wondering about others’ experiences with the kit? Share your questions or thoughts in the comments below or by posting on myHIVteam.