The LGBT Health & Development Program

First At-Home HIV Test in Drug Stores Now

Posted on November 14th, 2012 by SteveDuBois in Featured, Sexual Health Blog, Youth Blog. No Comments

For the first time ever, individuals who want to know their HIV status can find out by buying the test from their local drug store and administering the test to themselves. This is thanks to OraSure Technologies, which released its In-Home HIV Test in October 2012 after the FDA approved it in July 2012. The test kit contains the same rapid, oral-swab test given by many health centers nationwide. Consumers follow the instructions – use the oral swab, store the swab for approximately 20 minutes, and read the results. But, in case there is any confusion with the procedures, OraSure is offering 24-hour live support to consumers using the product. The test is currently available in drug stores such as Walgreens and CVS, although OraSure hopes to make the product more widely available, including to those in non-U.S. countries, within 2-3 years. Ideally, this product will increase HIV testing and HIV status awareness among sexually active individuals, especially those who have  low  HIV testing rates and who may be unaware of their status, such as young men who have sex with men [1-2].

As exciting as the release of the in-home OraSure test is, there are potential drawbacks and points of concern.

  • Like other rapid HIV tests, this OraSure test cannot detect the presence of HIV during the “window period” – the period of time up to 6 months after someone has contracted HIV but before HIV can be detected by rapid tests. Therefore, there is a group of people who could take this test, get a negative result, and actually have HIV.
  • If someone takes an OraSure rapid test at a local health center, for example, they are usually linked up with providers and resources to help them understand and cope with their new HIV diagnosis.  In contrast, this at-home test does not provide such in-person support.
  • Other barriers to accessing this test may include: cost, location of drug stores that carry it, age requirements (17 years and up), and ID requirements to buy the test.

 Therefore, some individuals who would benefit from the test may not be able to get it. These barriers are not addressed in the original press release about this in-home OraSure test.  Despite these potential drawbacks, the at-home OraSure test marks a step forward in the availability of rapid HIV tests and results.


1. CDC Fact Sheet. HIV among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. September 2010; msm/pdf/msm.pdf.

2. CDC Fact Sheet. Prevalence and awareness of HIV infection among men who have sex with men—21 cities, United States, 2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. September 2010; 59(37):1201-1207.


*This post was written by Steve Nicholas Du Bois, M.A., IMPACT Program  graduate student.


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