A new HIV home test that takes a swab from the mouth and gives a result in 20 to 40 minutes has been approved in the United States. The OraQuick In-Home HIV test by OraSure Technologies will be available over the counter.
The test involves collecting a swab of oral fluid from the upper and lower gums inside the mouth, and then placing this sample in a developer vial for results.
This new test will be a shot in the arm in the fight against HIV and AIDS because it allows people to test themselves in the privacy of their own homes. Testing and treating those infected has become critical to stemming the tide of HIV infections as the chance of infecting someone else is reduced by about 96 per cent if the infected partner is on antiretrovirals. It is probable that more people will get tested and get onto antiretrovirals as a direct result of the new test.
When administered by medical professionals the test is highly accurate, but less so when people administer it themselves. Studies have shown that it is almost 100 per cent accurate in people who are HIV negative, according to a report in the New York Times. It is less accurate in people who are HIV positive, at around 92 per cent.
The effectiveness of the test is limited by the ‘window period’ as it detects the antibodies that the body builds in response to being infected with HIV. It can take up to three months for antibodies to HIV to develop, which means that a person infected within the last three months may get a false negative result. The OraQuick test detects both type 1 and type 2 HIV antibodies. It is anticipated that it will be available in the U.S. from October.
This means that it is possible to get a false negative result – and about one in twelve people who are infected will do so. A false positive result is less likely, however, at around one in 5000. People who get a positive result should get confirmation from a medical practitioner. And those who engage in risky sexual behaviour should test themselves regularly.
"This is good news for a sub-region like Eastern and Southern Africa where HIV infection rates, although falling in many countries, continue to remain high and are linked to maternal mortality, affecting young females in particular," said Dr. Margaret Anyetei, UNFPA Technical Adviser for HIV, Sub-Regional Office Johannesburg. "We hope that the testing kits become readily available across Eastern and Southern Africa as soon as possible."
"Due to the fact that it has a 92 per cent accuracy rate, it is advisable to have a second confirmatory test using medical testing services," she said. "And condoms remain the best line of defence as dual protection against all sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, and as a family planning method."
An HIV home test kit that tests the person's blood is already available on the market.