Home HIV tests are gaining popularity with each passing day owing to the ease and convenience they bring to the table. They simply use a cheek swab to produce the result in 20 minutes.
Some studies say oral tests are not as reliable as blood tests, while other reports highlight that they’re “almost” as accurate. There are conversations about the tests being more expensive than the blood tests, and also about the fact that these tests are being now used to screen sexual partners.
But in my opinion, the most important thing to consider about the new availability and popularity of oral home tests is this: conversations ARE taking place. Home tests are creating an awareness of HIV testing. More individuals are talking about testing, and getting tested. All of this is good news.
My philosophy has always been to get the individuals engaged in the healthcare process. If you’re over 13, the U.S. CDC recommends that you get tested for HIV at least once. And if a home HIV test is the tool to make that happen, I’m 100% supportive of it.
However, along with any HIV testing method, there are certain prudent lifestyle decisions to be made than being stuck and happy with the results of just one test. Safe sex is safe sex, and it just doesn’t make sense to reassure yourself that you’re safe if there’s even a chance that you’re not.
Here are some things to keep in mind about home HIV tests, and also HIV Antibody blood tests.
If you receive a negative result:
Unless you and your partner have been monogamous for 3 months or longer, you will need to take another test to confirm your negative status. Follow-up testing is recommended at 3, 6 and at 12 months.
Even if you are HIV negative, having sex without a condom will still put you at risk for STDs. These include genital herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis – cases of which are increasing, particularly among men who have sex with men – and hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV.
If you have multiple partners – or if your partner does – get in the habit of getting tested regularly. One “pass” is not enough to keep you safe.
Know it that there are limitations to any testing situation. Think about whether you really want to make significant choices which will impact your life based on the results you get.
If you receive a positive result:
You should contact your healthcare provider for laboratory testing to confirm the results and discuss possible treatment options.
An HIV positive diagnosis is not life-ending, but it is life-changing. You’ll need to be vigilant about follow-up care and tests.
Concerns about confidentiality should not be a deterrent for getting advice and further testing. There are laws in place to protect your privacy.
If you have a real reason to believe you’ve been recently exposed to HIV, home testing is probably not the best option. There is a blood test called HIV by PCR which is the most sensitive test available for high-risk screening.
Also, it doesn’t matter who you are! Don’t just talk about it, get tested.