Getting tested for HIV just got a lot easier, thanks to OraQuick , the first ever in-home rapid HIV test, which hit shelves in October.
The test, which uses an oral swab to produce results in just 20 minutes, can be purchased online or at major retailers, like CVS and Walmart , according OraQuick’s website.
The company hopes its product will reach individuals, who do not know they are infected and are unlikely to get tested, according to a press release . By identifying these cases, the company hopes the product will help slow the spread of HIV in the United States, the release states.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , one in five people living with HIV in the United States do not know they are infected, and are more likely to pass the virus on to someone else .
But Kimberly Liao , community health educator for Penn State University Health Services, said the at-home test may be beneficial for some people, but coming for testing in person has advantages.
Unlike OraQuick, which retails for $39.99, according to the company’s website, the test offered by UHS is free for Penn State students, Liao said.
Additionally, UHS provides important counseling for students who come in for testing, Liao said.
“One of the benefits is that the person has a chance to talk to somebody about any concerns they have, or questions about HIV or other sexually transmitted infections,” Liao said. “It’s also a chance to start brainstorming ways that they can keep themselves safer in the future.”
The tests administered at UHS are 100 percent confidential, she said, so information will not be given to anyone else, including the student’s parents.
“The results, and even the fact that someone has come in for testing, are kept completely separate from their UHS medical record and their Penn State student record,” Liao said.
However, the stigma associated with HIV could potentially be what prevents individuals from getting tested, Rachel Smith , Penn State associate professor of Communication Arts & Sciences and Human Development & Family Studies, wrote in an email.
“People try to avoid stigmatization: one way to avoid it is to never get labeled or marked as a member of a stigmatized group,” Smith wrote. “In this case, to avoid HIV stigma, people may avoid testing.”
But Smith wrote that she does not think that OraQuick will have a big impact in stopping the sigma associated with HIV or the spread of the virus itself.
“Having an at-home test may help someone to learn their status, but it does not change the stigma or stigmatization,” she wrote. “Slowing the spread of HIV stigma, much less reducing its existence, will need something else.”