Last spring, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first over-the-counter take-home HIV test. The OraQuick test is available at Walgreens, CVS and other pharmacies around the nation, in rural and urban areas alike. The test is aimed at reaching those that would not be tested through other avenues, according to a report by the FDA.
Approximately one-fifth, or 240,000 people, of the 1.2 million HIV carriers in the U.S. are not aware they are infected. On average, around 50,000 Americans are diagnosed each year.
So how does the test work and is it really simple enough to do at home?
I took the challenge and went to the nearest Walgreens to my home in Bountiful. The test carries a $40 price tag, much more than the free tests at the Utah AIDS Foundation, but this test is slightly more convenient.
After settling in at home, I opened the package and started reading. The steps are clearly laid out and come with small illustrations. After preparing the materials and opening the packages, I did the familiar swipe of the testing strip around my gums and placed it in the test tube bottle provided. There’s even a small bottle holder in the case.
After setting my timer for 20 minutes, I browsed the accompanying materials. There are support numbers available for around-the-clock service and other information. The materials cover much of the groundwork for prevention that the volunteers at UAF normally cover.
I was impressed by the available services and called the testing hotline just to see what kind of service I encountered. I was immediately connected to a very helpful and friendly woman who answered all the possible questions I could imagine. If a positive result is returned, the hotline representatives will assist you in setting an appointment with a local physician to confirm the test.
While the $40 may seem a hefty price to pay, I understand where that money is going after reviewing all the materials and speaking with the customer service representative. And some may find the experience at home more pleasant than at a clinic.
The results are very simple to follow. One red line on the reader indicates a negative result and two lines indicates a positive status. The testing information stresses that all positive results must be confirmed.
The same time restrictions apply to the OraQuick test. The results may not be as accurate until three months after exposure. Also, there are some other restrictions such as mouthwash and toothpaste should not be used for 30 minutes prior to testing.
If you decide to try the OraQuick test, just follow the detailed instructions and clear about 30 minutes to dedicate to the test. It’s quick, simple alternative to going to the clinic for results.
For more information about the test or to find a distributor near you, go to oraquick.com.