CDC now offering free at-home testing for HIV

HOME SAFE::The CDC is hoping that by offering kits that can be ordered anonymously, the thousands of infected people it thinks are unaware of their status will get tested

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Jul 03, 2013 - Page 3

People who think they may have contracted HIV can now perform a quick, free home test to determine their status, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday.

In a bid to enhance the availability of HIV testing, the CDC is now offering free OraQuick HIV kits at four lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender resource centers: the Gay Community Center Taipei (大台北同學會), Gisney Land (風城部屋) in Hsinchu, South Rainbow Street 6 in Greater Tainan and Sunshine Queer Center (陽光酷兒中心) in Greater Kaohsiung.

Those who are unable or unwilling to pick a test at one of the resource centers can order one anonymously online, or by telephone, the CDC said.

“The four resource centers were chosen to distribute the kits because they have extensive experience as counseling and screening centers for HIV-positive or potentially infected people,” CDC division director Chen Chang-hsun (陳昶勳) said.

The OraQuick oral fluid test has a 99 percent accuracy rate and is easily carried out, the CDC said. A user simply has to collect oral fluid by swabbing their upper and lower gums with the device provided in the kit and insert it into a test tube for 20 to 30 minutes to obtain the results, the health agency said.

Chen said that although the test is called a saliva test, that is a misnomer because “the test requires oral fluid, which is a mixture of oral mucosal transudate and saliva, which is why it is necessary to swab the gums.”

Since the kit tests for HIV antibodies, “its effectiveness is limited to those who already have a detectable amount of these antibodies, which is at least three months after infection,” he added.

“There are rumors that at some house parties, guests are required to take the test before entering, but since there is a three-month window to show a positive result, having safe, unprotected sex at such parties cannot be guaranteed,” Chen said.

Chen stressed that a positive result from oral fluid testing is preliminary and the person’s status would have to be confirmed by additional testing.

The CDC said the free kits are the latest initiative in its campaign for greater participation in HIV counseling and testing.

Last year, 589 people were screened under the “I-check” plan for potential primary HIV infection. Four positive cases were detected and later referred for evaluation and treatment, Chen said, adding that the CDC estimates that there are approximately 6,000 to 9,000 people unaware that they are HIV positive.