There has been a lot of talk about at-home testing lately. In fact, a few people who have been newly diagnosed as HIV positive have found out their initial result through an in-home test. Now, I have been tested several times, both for personal reasons and also because I seem to be the guinea pig whenever we have someone new who is learning the procedure, but I have never taken the at-home variety. I figured I would see what all the fuss is about and see how the process went.
First off, there are a couple different ways of acquiring the test. You can go into a pharmacy and request one (they are usually behind the counter) or buy one on the internet. The price is pretty comparable, so it’s really about preference or accessibility. Not everyone is going to have the ability to waltz into a gay-friendly pharmacy and feel empowered enough to purchase one. Unfortunately, the Wal-Mart pharmacy in BFE rural Iowa miiiiiight not carry them. And even if they do, a lot of people in those communities might not be comfortable asking for one.
For purposes of this article, I went ahead and ordered a test online. It came in a discreet package and arrived within a couple days. I settled in and got to business. The plastic case it came in was very official and the instructions were pretty user-friendly. Granted, I test people for HIV as part of my job, but even if I had never done it before I feel that I would have been just fine. Luckily, it was an oral swab test (if you couldn’t already tell by the product name, OraQuick) so that user error is reduced. At the office, we poke people’s fingers and take a small drop of blood for our antibody test. That works great in a clinic setting, but I can’t imagine that the average person would be too thrilled to puncture their own finger. I mean, I would probably pass out if I had to.
The oral swab means it’s sanitary, safe, easy, and the lack of blood means that the risk of HIV-infected fluid isn’t present. And like I said, the instructions were easy to understand. But even though I “knew” my status going into this process (I had been tested very recently) it’s still a nerve-racking experience. As anyone who has gone to a doctor or clinic or AIDS organization for testing knows, even when you think you “know” it makes you sweat a little. So, being by myself during this process was a little intense. What if I messed up? What if I’m positive?
The OraQuick company gives detailed instructions on what to do if your result is reactive, but how would it feel if you found out you were positive while you were home alone in your bathroom like me?
I know I’m a little biased, but I think if I tested positive I would want someone with me. Someone who could explain the process and next steps to me. Someone who could hold my hand or give me a hug or be there if I needed anything. And while having access to an in-home test is beneficial for those who don’t have access to testing resources, face stigma in their community, or don’t have open-minded doctors, I feel that when given the option, I would rather get a test with a real human being. I know a lot of you have used in-home tests before and it might work well with your lifestyle and schedule. So share your thoughts and experiences, would you?
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