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Self-Testing for HIV Proves Easy and Accurate

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 02, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 2, 2009 (Philadelphia) -- Self-testing for HIV is easy, accurate, and acceptable to many people, researchers report.

In a new study, more than 99% of HIV results that people obtained via self-testing matched those obtained by hospital workers.

Participants had no trouble distinguishing between positive and negative results, says Johns Hopkins researcher Charlotte Gaydos, DrPH.

And nearly everyone said they would "definitely or probably recommend" self‐testing to a friend and would "probably or definitely" perform a test at home if it were available, she tells WebMD.

With further study, home testing for HIV might one day be as routine as pregnancy testing, Gaydos says.

She presented the findings at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Self-Test for HIV Proves Accurate

Gaydos and colleagues approached people in the emergency room of a large city hospital and asked if they would test themselves for HIV while they were waiting. Nearly 90% gave their consent.

The 402 people who agreed were given a self-test kit with easy-to-understand instructions that explained how to obtain a blood sample, via pin prick, or a saliva sample, via mouth swab. More than 90% opted for the latter.

Each participant then put the saliva or blood sample into the provided vial and within 20 minutes the test offered a reading of positive or negative for HIV.

To determine how accurate self-testing was, hospital workers then readministered the test to each participant. The results matched in 400 of 402 cases.

The test works by detecting antibodies against HIV, just like the kits used by health care workers for routine HIV testing, Gaydos says.

Home HIV tests: The Pros and Cons

Michael Saag, MD, an HIV specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says that home testing could help improve early detection of HIV.

Early diagnosis means early treatment, which in turn "enables people to live a relatively normal life span," says Saag, who moderated a news conference to discuss the findings.

The downside, he says, is the emotional distress one might experience if faced with a positive result on his own.

"It could be devastating for someone to get a positive test and not know what to do," Saag says.

WebMD Health News



Infectious Diseases Society of America 47th Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 2009.

Charlotte Gaydos, DrPH, professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins.

Michael Saag, MD, department of infectious diseases, University of Alabama, Birmingham.

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