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How accurate are HIV home testing kits?

If you find yourself concerned about contracting a serious illness, the last thing you want to be worrying about is the accuracy of an at-home HIV test kit. While HIV testing is available for free with the NHS, you might find yourself unable or unwilling to head to your local GP. You undertake a little investigative work and discover you can buy HIV testing kits online, which can be delivered discreetly to your door. But you may be dubious of the accuracy of these blood tests you can take in the comfort of your own home.

Here, we'll explore how it is possible to test for HIV at home and uncover the accuracy behind these convenient HIV test kits.

What is HIV?

Commonly referred to as HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that cannot be beaten by the human body’s natural defence mechanisms. Instead, HIV uses the cells that are normally produced to fight infections and turns them into cells that help the HIV illness to replicate.

If left untreated, HIV eventually transforms into Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), in which the sufferer will no longer have any immune system at all. Because of this, the virus is known as degenerative (gets worse over time) and early action can mean you will have access to medication that slows the entire process down.

HIV is not the same as AIDS. HIV is the name of the virus which is transmitted while AIDS refers to the symptoms which develop when HIV is left untreated. A person with AIDS can still carry and transmit HIV.

Should I be concerned about HIV?

If you have had unprotected sex with a person who is HIV positive, have regular casual sex with new partners then you should be regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections. Similarly, if you are considered “high risk”, it is advised that you take the at home HIV test kit regularly - these include recreational drug users or those who share needles with others.

Testing yourself regularly with an accurate at home HIV test kit will ensure that you are able to seek medical help as soon as your test marks as a positive. It also allows you to safeguard other partners and friends with the knowledge of your HIV status.

How accurate are HIV home testing kits?

Fourth generation tests are extremely precise, with a 95% accuracy rating within 28 days of exposure, according to a 2018 study by Livant et al. It is recommended, however, that a second test take place after 3 months of the initial exposure, as the infection will take longer to show in some than others. At three months, the accuracy of the HIV home tests is considered 99.97% accurate.

The accuracy of fifth generation HIV testing kits, such as those available from Prescription Doctor, is even more so. These tests indicate whether p24 pathogens and antibodies, associated with the body's reaction to an HIV infection, are present, and can detect HIV faster and more accurately than fourth generation tests. Fifth generation HIV testing kits are 99.8% accurate at detecting HIV at least 6 weeks after exposure.

The at home HIV test kit accuracy is not affected by any environmental factors, so you should not need to fast or become concerned about false positives or negatives, so long as you perform the test correctly. However, it is important that any at home testing kit you buy has the quality-assurance mark “CE”. This means it is licensed for sale in the UK, as tests from abroad may not be as accurate due to the poor quality.

HIV Treatment

Receiving a positive result from any HIV test can be extremely distressing and upsetting. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for HIV - although many people who have HIV go on to live happy, fulfilling lives thanks to advances in medicine.

If your test shows a positive result, it is important that you contact your local doctor as soon as possible, letting them know that you have tested positive with an at home HIV testing kit. Your local GP will then be able to provide you with medicine and regular blood tests to monitor the progress of the virus.

The medicine you will receive from your doctor come from a wide variety of pills, which are referred to as antiretroviral medications. These work by stopping the virus from replicating in your body. Doing this gives your body the space and time it needs to rebuild your immune system, without new cells becoming infected by the virus.

Which type of medicine you are given with this group can be different, depending on the rate the virus has spread, how your body responds and how the virus responds to medication. For some, only a single pill is required each day - for others, you may require a combination of pills up to 4 times a day.

This can also change over time, as the virus can sometimes change and become resistant to the medicine you might currently be taking. In these cases, your doctor will move on to another combination of tablets, all of which do the same job of suppressing the virus itself.

It is important that you are always open and honest with your doctor about any other medications - prescribed or otherwise - that you might be taking, as these can interfere with the effectiveness of your HIV treatment.

For many HIV patients, the virus will be under control and a blood test will show an undetectable viral load within 6 months of being prescribed their first course of HIV treatment. Of course, medicinal advancements are happening all the time and it is very possible that a cure could be found in the near future.


Authored & Reviewed By

Mohamed Imran Lakhi

MPharm - Lead Pharmacist
Imran Lakhi is the superintendent pharmacist and founder at Prescription Doctor. He has been at the core of our team.

Published on: 21/08/2019 Reviewed on: 28/01/2020
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