How do the home tests work?
The FDA approved home test kit can be purchased on the internet or by phone. Initially, a person gets assigned a special code number for identification purposes. This helps to keep HIV testing as confidential as possible. Kits normally include a lancet that is used to prick the finger then one must swipe the blood on a testing card.
Once the blood test is complete, one must package and ship to a specifically designated laboratory for analysis. Results should be back in about a week. In addition to receiving the results via phone, one could request paper documentation via fax, email or mail with the test results.
The more reputable HIV kit manufacturers do provide counseling services, both pre and post test.
In addition, some home kits are available in certain retail stores. These kits either require pricking a finger or swabbing the mouth with a specially provided oral sponge. Results are promised within 5-10 minutes of the initial test. There is no laboratory or counseling services. However, because they are not FDA approved, they none can be legally marketed in the US as an HIV test.
Are they reliable?
The FDA approved test, called Home Access is considered by be highly reliable and accurate. Those tests, which are not approved by the FDA, have not been proven to have a statistically significant factor of reliability, nor can they be tracked for accuracy of results. Independent laboratories may have checked for accuracy and validity of these non-FDA approved tests, but the FDA has stringent and rigorous testing protocols that individual laboratories may not follow.
In addition, some of the tests, when used improperly can give false results. This is due to lack of training on how to take the test properly or correctly interpret the results. No matter, the false result could cause tremendous suffering to the individual being tested and possibly further spread of HIV if the person believes he is not infected when he truly is.
Products and Costs
Home Access tests usually retail between $40 and $70 for one test, with express results being the differentiator.
Non FDA approved tests usually retail for $20 or less, but probably will not stay on the market for long. The FDA monitors sales in the United States of any test not approved by the FDA to ensure that no misrepresentation occurs. Unfortunately, many of these non FDA approved manufacturers “guarantee” accuracy and verification of results, much to the detriment of those who purchase these kits without doing the proper research.
Ty Johns is a researcher and writer on many health related products and is a contributor for an informational website Home HIV Test Kit