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What is the Oraquick HIV Test?

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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2016
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Since HIV was first recognized in 1981, it has led to the deaths of more than 25 million people, making it one of the worst modern pandemics. Part of the problem with HIV is that it may take some time for symptoms to show, and during that period it can be easily transferred to sexual partners. Although various forms of protection can lower the incidence of infection, none are absolutely perfect, making regular testing important for anyone with multiple sexual partners, and a good idea for everyone. The Oraquick HIV test is a fast and easy test, intended to reduce the commitment necessary to get a test, to inspire more people to remain regularly tested.

Standard HIV testing takes place using two different modalities. First, an ELISA, or Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay, test is undertaken to screen for HIV antibodies. If these antibodies are detected, then a follow-up Western blot test is undertaken to look at the size of the antigens present. Combining these two tests results in a very accurate gauge of whether HIV is present, with very few false negatives and false positives.

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The Oraquick HIV test is one of a type of tests known as rapid tests, or point-of-care tests. These tests are intended more for regular checkups, and rely heavily on the health care provider making a strong assessment of the person’s sexual or drug-use history, as well as the test itself. Because antibodies may not reach detectable levels for months after infection, a negative result from the Oraquick HIV test does not necessarily mean the person is not infected, it simply means it hasn’t shown up yet. As a result, regular use of the Oraquick HIV test is recommended.

Results can be gained from the Oraquick HIV test in around twenty minutes. A fluid sample is taken, either in the form of blood or saliva, which is then mixed in a vial. The results are then read from a dipping stick, and show either the presence of HIV antibodies or no presence. An Oraquick HIV test can usually detect both HIV 1 and HIV 2 if it is present in the body. Most often, blood is collected for an Oraquick HIV test either by pricking the finger with a fingerstick, or by using venipuncture.

Clinical studies of the Oraquick HIV test have shown it to detect approximately 99.6% of people who were infected with HIV-1 correctly, and 100% of people who were not infected with HIV-1 correctly. In the field, however, it is expected for there to be a slightly higher rate of both false negatives and false positives. When a positive result is shown, it is recommended that a more intensive, follow-up test take place, to confirm the presence of HIV. The test hasn’t been assessed for its functionality in detecting HIV-2, but as HIV-2 is not widespread in the United States, regular screening for this type of HIV is not promoted anyway.

Many different sites offer Oraquick HIV testing as a part of a routine visit. Because it is so non-invasive, and because results can be achieved while the patient waits, many people find it preferable to other tests. Although potentially slightly less accurate, for a first pass the Oraquick HIV test is ideal.

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