Monday, July 16, 2012

Over-The-Counter HIV Rapid Testing Kit: Is It Worth It, Yet?

July is National HIV Awareness month. Until recently I had no idea when it was. This is probably information I need to know. The only reason I became aware of this fact is because of a blog post I happened to come across on the Women's Health magazine website. While this post isn't exactly spreading HIV awareness in the sense of tons of stats, it is introducing us to a new testing product.

I am one of the 80+ million Americans who has never been tested for HIV. This is not due to some fear of the results or from being lazy (at least not outright LoL), I just simply never think about it when I am at the doctor. With so much going on in our day-to-day lives, this (I imagine) is the case for most of that estimated number of people not being tested. Life today is just so....hectic. Who has time for this kind of thing??

There are already over-the-counter (OTC) home test kits for HIV out there on the market. Many of them require taking a blood sample and then having that sample shipped to a laboratory for the actual testing to be done. A few take a quick finger-prick amount of blood onto the testing device, a short wait (about 15 minutes) and then, viola, your results. If you are anything like me, however, the idea of having to "draw" your own blood in any fashion may just make your skin crawl. 

The makers of OraQuick, OraSure, have made this a little bit easier for you. Just follow these 3 easy steps as outlined from the product's instructions:
  1. Gently swab your top and bottom gums (front sides).
  2. Place swab in vial of solution on stand.
  3. Wait 20 minutes and read results.

While previously this product has only been available to health care providers, OraSure has won the battle to get their product on the shelves of drugstores all across America. Come this October you will be able to find this nifty little product on the shelves of your local Wal-Mart, Walgreens, RiteAid, or CVS/pharmacy--or you can simply order this product off the internet here and have it delivered to your door!!

Sounds great right?? I thought so too until I came across this bit of information over on the blog post I read:
"How effective is it [OraQuick]?

The test is pretty reliable at detecting the virus, with a 99.98 percent rate of accuracy, a false positive in just one in 5,000 tests. However, its false negative rate is one in 12, meaning many people infected with HIV could remain undiagnosed if they don’t follow up with further testing."
Seriously?! While I commend the fact that it accurately detects the HIV1&2 viruses with a 99.98% rate, I happen to find the fact that there is a 1 in 12 chance of the viruses NOT being detected very alarming!! Isn't that part of the point to being able to do this kind of thing at home?? I mean, I would be ecstatic to get a negative result (who wouldn't?!) but then the anxiety of whether or not it was a false-negative would set right in. Then I would be compelled to make an official appointment (which my busy life doesn't have time for) to get a "more professional" test done to ease my mind. If I wanted to go that route, I would have just made the appointment to begin with instead of buying the at-home kit.

Now, don't get me wrong. This IS a big step forward in HIV/AIDS prevention and I can acknowledge that completely. I just hope that OraSure can work out some of the kinks with the high number of false-negatives. I think I would be more inclined to use the product if I knew that it could more accurately give me a negative result and I'm sure most people can agree with me on that, at least to some degree.

The idea is a novel one. Taking the "creepy" out of HIV testing by simply swabbing your gums would be great.....if it were as accurate as a blood sample. So, at least for now, I think that the "creepy" and slightly more traditional blood testing kits (send away or rapid-result) is the way to go for a more definitive, as well as more private and less stress-inducing, testing results.


  1. That 1 i 12 is high. Lets hope this get more reliable over time like pregnancy tests. Get tested. I have been tested I dunno 10 plus times. I have it done when I do my yearly gyno appt.

    1. Having it done at the yearly exam is a great idea!! I already get tested for tons of other stuff then too :) I'll keep that in mind and make sure to do it next week when I go!

  2. I would rather a one-in-twelve chance of a false positive and a one-in-five-thousand chance of a false negative. Because then at least you're likely to get a quick scare, but all you need to do is retest yourself once or twice and the problem's gone.

  3. That's what I thought too!! I mean, what's the point if the chance of still passing it on, because your test came back negative when it shouldn't have, is still blatantly there. Most people who get negative results--especially if that's what they are expecting to get--are not going to "follow up" with more testing....

  4. MizTink, apologies for taking so long to get a chance to visit your blog and say a huge thank you for the awards. It seems that my computer hates me and had chosen to show it's disdain by not working.

    Again sorry and a massive thank you!
    Loving the blog by the way. Your post about the fact that sex trafficking still exists, was quite chilling.

    1. It's great to see you're back! I've definitely missed your wit :) You are most welcome for the awards! Your blog is terrific and just what I need most days.

      It is chilling to know that sex trafficking still exists and is rather high up there in the list of "world crimes". I follow up on it regularly; just the other day I came across a news article from close to where I live (about an hour or so away) where girls were being tricked into taking topless pictures for a "modeling scout". There is legally nothing these girls can do to get these pictures back or press charges against this man :( It is heart-breaking. This is one of the things that really gets me going.....


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