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HIV and AIDS

Should I Trust The Home Access HIV-1 Test?

07/03/2002

Question:

How really reliable is the Home Access HIV-1 testing system in detecting antibodies to HIV? They are claiming to have results that are more than 99.9% accurate and are compatible with the tests used in the hospitals and private practice. They claim to perform an ELISA test on a dried blood specimens collected by a finger stick sent to their laboratory. They are also FDA approved. Can they be trusted in your professional opinion? Thank you in advance for your response.

Answer:

Home tests for HIV infection have been available since 1997 or 1998. The products vary slightly but generally are comparable. They are pretty close to being as accurate as tests done in a hospital. They are 99% sensitive that is they usually pick up most people who are positive and they are 99% specific that is they are usually accurate most of the time. Here is one problem that occurs with any test. If the person who is taking the test has a low chance of really being infected with HIV then there is a chance of a false positive test. I have seen several patients with this problem. Since no test (not even at a hospital) is perfect, some patients are going to have a test that says they are positive when, in fact, they are negative. Overall, the home test seems like a good idea. Some folks might get tested that otherwise would not. It is generally reliable and accurate.

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Response by:

Carl   Fichtenbaum, MD Carl Fichtenbaum, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati