OraQuick claims it can accurately determine in a matter of minutes if you are HIV-positive. Is it reliable? We’ve done the research and have an answer.
Thankfully, the days when HIV was a mysterious ailment with hateful stigmas are long gone.
With this wider acceptance and awareness comes a new era of research that makes HIV testing as simple as it has ever been. Rather than waiting nervously by your phone or in a doctor’s office for positive or negative results, you can test yourself at home in privacy or with loved ones.
But with such a crucial diagnosis on the line, is there enough research and data available that confirms OraQuick is the reliable, non-invasive test you’ve been looking for?
We’re going to answer that question over the next few minutes by examining how OraQuick works, how accurate the test is, what other products are out there and our conclusions about the kit.
How Does OraQuick Tell Me If I Have HIV?
One of the big draws of OraQuick is that you don’t’ have to draw blood in order to get results. Users run a swab one time across their upper and lower gums.
The swab is then placed tip-down into a vial that contains a saline solution. If there are any Type-1 or Type-2 HIV antibodies (the cells which fight the virus) in the saliva sample, they travel up the neck of the swab into the results area.
The results area has results window with two letters next to it: C and T. A line next to the letter C indicates you don’t have the virus. A line next to the letter C and the letter T indicates the presence of antibodies and, as the logic goes, the presence of the human immunodeficiency virus. If no lines appear, the test is not working properly.
OraQuick’s website provides a step-by-step video for administering the test. If you’re worried you’re going to do something wrong, it helps to watch the video.
Test results usually appear within 20-40 minutes.
Is OraQuick Really as Accurate as it Seems?
To answer this question, we went to the Food and Drug Administration’s records. We found that OraQuick reported some pretty impressive numbers:
- 92% of the time the test found HIV when HIV was present
- 99.98% of the time the test did not find HIV when HIV wasn’t present
- False positives occur once about every 5,000 tests.
These results impressed the FDA enough that, on July 3, 2012, they made OraQuick the first HIV testing kit to be approved for over-the-counter sale. It was a big deal, drawing the support of well-known HIV advocate and former Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson. It’s also a big deal to us, because we’ve found that many medical products claim they’ve been “approved” by the FDA when they’ve only registered with the FDA. Getting approved is much harder than registering with them.
How Does OraQuick Work?
What’s the process behind this test? Great question. It’s something called lateral flow immunoassays, which basically coaxes the analyte (HIV antibodies, in this case) up from the swab or tip and into a results area. Once they’re in that area, two wall-like strips called membranes capture the analyte and show up as colored lines.
This type of technology was first introduced in pregnancy tests in 1988 and has been used a million times over since then. In our opinion, this method of testing is pretty reliable and, based on the results reported to the FDA, we think you’ll be in good hands if you choose to use OraQuick.
Even though OraQuick has a solid track-record, the company still urges you to consult with a physician if you test positive. As the website says, “A positive result with this test does not mean that you are definitely infected with HIV, but rather that additional testing should be done in a medical setting.”
If you’re the kind of consumer who likes to check out reviews before making an important purchase like this, congratulations. You’re off to a great start. And you’ll be happy to know OraQuick is well praised. It gets 4.5 stars on Amazon, 4.9 stars at Walgreens and 5 stars on Walmart.com.
Are There Other HIV Home Testing Kits on the Market?
At the time of our research, the Home Access HIV-1 Test System was the only other testing kit you could buy over-the-counter. Unlike OraQuick, this test gets results through blood collected from a finger prick.
With this test, you get results faster than you do from OraQuick and you can do a confirmation test immediately after a positive result.
Another difference between the two tests is that Home Access only tests for HIV-1, the form of the virus most common in the United States. OraQuick also tests for HIV-2, a form of the virus that’s more present in West Africa.
We took a look at Walgreens’ website for a price check. The Home Access kit costs $59.99, while OraQuick costs $43.99.
If you’re debating between the two kits, we think both have proven reliable and it’s really up to your preference. The Home Access kit can confirm your positive result, which is important because if you think you may have HIV, waiting at a clinic or for a doctor’s appointment to confirm your results could be really nerve-wracking.
Our Conclusions About the OraQuick HIV Testing Kit
Though HIV research and treatments have come a long way, an HIV-positive test result is still a scary thing. Many people choose not to get tested on a regular basis; the CDC estimates that about 240,000 have HIV but don’t know it.
We think OraQuick is a safe, effective way of finding out if you’re HIV-positive because of several different factors. It’s FDA-approved, which is a pretty rare designation for this type of product. The technology behind OraQuick has been proven to work thousands of times over. Also, the test lets you check for two different types of the HIV virus and has a price tag that’s more affordable than its limited competition. Another plus? It doesn’t require any of your blood, just a swab of your saliva.
So, if you’re afraid of testing yourself, we believe OraQuick’s convenience, accuracy and privacy will most likely give you the peace of mind you want without breaking your bank account.
We’d also like to add one more thing: if you do test positive, you can call OraQuick’s help line at 1-866-436-6527. Support representatives will counsel you about your test results and direct you to physicians who can help you through the next steps.