Americans will soon have the option of checking their HIV status without going to a clinic for their initial test. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an over-the-counter HIV test that allows people to test themselves for the AIDS virus in the privacy of their homes.
The OraQuick test detects HIV in saliva collected from a mouth swab and provides results within 20 minutes. The hope is that the test will help identify some of the quarter million Americans who are infected with HIV but don’t know it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 50,000 Americans become infected with HIV every year, and most of these new infections are caused by people unwittingly transmitting the virus. The CDC says the majority of people who have HIV and know it change their behavior to protect others.
The test has some caveats, the most important being that it will not detect HIV until at least three months after infection. False negatives and false positives are possible. If you think you have been exposed to HIV, further testing may be necessary. All positive results from the OraQuick test should be checked with a follow-up test at a clinic.
The OraQuick test will be sold at pharmacies and online beginning in October. It is approved for sale to anyone age 17 and older.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]