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Around 1.2 million U.S. adults are living with HIV, but about 13 percent don’t know they have it. Knowing your HIV status can lead to earlier treatment. It can also help prevent HIV from progressing to AIDS, as well as other infections that may become more likely with a weakened immune system. It’s also important for preventing transmission to others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people between the ages of 13 and 64 test at least once.

People of any race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation can contract HIV. Some people may have a greater risk due to high risk behaviors, which can include:

  • anal or vaginal sex
  • unprotected sexual intercourse
  • having multiple sex partners
  • sharing needles during IV drug use

Gay, bisexual, transgender, Black, and Latinx populations are also disproportionately affected. There are also some states where HIV is more prevalent in rural areas. This may be due to barriers to healthcare and stigma and racism within the healthcare system.

There’s a window in which the immune system begins making antibodies against HIV, and many HIV tests look for these antibodies.

Antibodies are proteins the body produces in response to certain infections and illnesses. The time between when exposure and when the test can detect antibodies is called the window period. It’s different for each type of test.

Rapid home tests can detect antibodies within 90 days, whereas lab tests can detect them within 45 days after exposure.

It’s possible to get a false-negative test result if you test within the window. To confirm a negative HIV status, get tested again at the end of the window.

If you are symptomatic or unsure about your test results, seek medical help.

In the past, the only way to get tested for HIV was to go to a doctor’s office, hospital, or community health center. Now, there are options for taking an HIV test at home.

Some HIV tests, whether taken at home or at a health facility, are even able to deliver results within 30 minutes. These are known as rapid HIV tests.

A doctor can order an HIV test for a patient to use at home, but it’s not required. This test requires taking a small sample of blood through a finger stick and placing it onto a card. Then the card is mailed to a lab. The doctor, or the company if the test was purchased without a doctor, will contact them with the results.

A rapid HIV self-test uses a sample of fluid from the mouth to check for antibodies to HIV. This quick HIV test involves a swab of the top and bottom gums using the stick included in the kit. The stick then goes into a vial containing a developer solution. Results are available in 20 to 40 minutes.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the OraQuick In-Home HIV test measured at about 92 percent accuracy at detecting HIV. But about 1 out of 12 tests results in a false negative, which means testing negative when a person is actually positive. About 1 out of 5,000 people test positive when they don’t have HIV.

It’s also important to know that it takes the body up to 3 months to produce antibodies to HIV. Taking a rapid HIV test less than 3 months after exposure may not produce an accurate result.

It’s important for anyone with a positive result on a home rapid HIV test to check with a healthcare professional or call the product’s customer support center. A follow-up test can confirm the results.

Healthline chose the at-home HIV tests for this article carefully. Tests included in our roundup met a variety of criteria, including the following:

  • The test must have high accuracy and sensitivity.
  • Companies that process test samples must use CLIA certified laboratories.
  • Tests that are affordable for a wide range of budgets, regardless of insurance coverage.
  • Companies must offer robust and transparent privacy measures, such as data protection and discreet packaging.
  • Companies must inform customers when they will receive their test results and whether they will receive them via email, app, or phone.
  • Companies that provide further support, such as a follow-up phone consultation with a doctor or another healthcare professional, to discuss next steps, especially with a positive test result.

A note on price

Private health insurance may not cover the cost of an at-home HIV test bought at a drugstore or online. Some local health departments and organizations provide these tests for free or at a reduced cost.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $50
  • $$ = $50–$150
  • $$$ = over $150

OraQuick In-Home HIV Test

  • Price: $
  • Method: oral swab
  • Results window: 20–40 minutes

The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test is currently the only rapid home test approved by the FDA. It’s sold online and at drugstores. It’s suitable for people over 18. People under 18 can still use the test, though they should test under adult supervision.

To take the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test:

  1. Swab top and bottom gums with the enclosed stick.
  2. Place the swab in a tube with a developing solution.

Results are available in 20 to 40 minutes. If one line appears, the test is negative. Two lines indicate a positive result. Another test performed at a commercial or clinical lab is necessary to confirm a positive test result.

Clinical studies have shown that the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test has an expected performance of approximately 92 percent for test sensitivity.

Pros

  • When used correctly, the test has a 99.9 percent accuracy rate for negative results and a 92 percent accuracy rate for positive results.
  • The test uses saliva instead of blood — no finger-pricking required.
  • You don’t have to send the sample to a lab and wait for results. You’ll know at home within 20 to 40 minutes.

Cons

  • Additional lab testing is needed after a positive result.
  • Even when used correctly, the test can produce a small number of false-positive and false-negative results.
  • Results may not be accurate if exposed to the virus within 3 months of testing.

A note on FDA approval

Other rapid home tests are available in the United States, but they have not been FDA approved. Using tests that are not FDA approved may not always provide accurate results.

There are other HIV tests that can be conveniently purchased online and taken at home in most states. They include tests from Everlywell and LetsGetChecked.

Everlywell

  • Price: $–$$
  • Method: finger-stick blood test
  • Results window: within 5 business days

Everlywell is a fourth generation HIV test. It measures both antibodies to the virus and proteins called HIV p24 antigens from cells containing the virus.

Insurance doesn’t cover the test cost, but Everlywell does accept health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending account (FSA) payments.

The Everlywell HIV Test uses blood taken from the fingertip with a small needle provided in the test kit. Unlike rapid HIV tests, Everlywell tests do not provide same-day results. The test samples have to first be sent to a lab. Test results should be available online within 5 business days.

Medical professionals are available to explain the test results and discuss the next steps for people with positive test results.

Pros

  • It’s a fourth generation HIV test, so it can detect the virus within 18 to 45 days — which is faster than antibody tests.
  • If you receive a positive result, you can connect with one of the company’s physicians at no cost to discuss next steps.
  • The company sends a report of the results to a smartphone or another device.
  • The test is more than 99 percent accurate, according to the company.

Cons

  • A finger prick is needed to obtain a blood sample.
  • The sample has to be sent to a lab, and it takes a few days to get results.
  • Insurance generally doesn’t cover the cost of this test.

LetsGetChecked

  • Price: $$–$$$
  • Method: blood and urine sample
  • Results window: 2–5 days

This test kit requires both a blood sample and a urine sample. LetsGetChecked doesn’t provide same-day results, as test samples have to first be sent to a lab. Test results should be available within 2 to 5 days.

The LetsGetChecked Home STD Testing kits test for multiple sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at the same time.

The Standard 5 tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, HIV, and syphilis.

The Complete 8 tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, HIV, syphilis, Gardnerella, mycoplasma, and ureaplasma.

LetsGetChecked doesn’t accept health insurance, but you can pay with HSA or FSA.

Pros

  • It tests for HIV and other STDs at the same time.
  • Those who test positive have access to an expert to discuss the results.
  • The test is packaged and delivered in a plain envelope for privacy.

Cons

  • LetsGetChecked requires a blood and urine test.
  • Results take 2 to 5 days.
  • The sample must be collected before 10 a.m. and returned on the same day.
  • Because the HIV test is only available bundled in a set of five or eight tests, it’s more expensive than an individual HIV test.

Nurx

  • Price: $$–$$$
  • Method: The company uses finger-prick blood cards for HIV, though depending on the kit and what else you’re testing for, you may also submit a vaginal swab, throat swab, or urine sample
  • Results window: within 7 business days

Nurx offers three different test kits that check for HIV and three to four other STDs. The HIV test relies on a blood sample, which the company claims is superior to saliva-based testing, as it can detect infection more quickly. Results should be available within 7 business days.

Nurx accepts health insurance, but people who aren’t insured can pay an out-of-pocket fee. The company offers access to a healthcare professional for advice on next steps — regardless of whether the test is positive or negative.

Nurx offers three kits, so you can choose what’s best for your needs:

  • The Full Control Kit: tests for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and hepatitis C
  • The Basics Covered Kit: tests for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis
  • The Healthy V Kit: tests for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis

Pros

  • It tests for HIV and other STDs at the same time.
  • You get access to a healthcare professional for advice, whether you test positive or negative.
  • If you test positive, the company will connect you to in-person care.
  • The test is covered by insurance.

Cons

  • Results can take up to 7 business days.
  • It can be expensive if you don’t have health insurance.
  • A medical consultation costs an additional $15.

My LabBox

  • Price: $$
  • Method: finger prick
  • Results window: 2–5 days

My LabBox uses a finger prick method to test for HIV. Results are available online within 2 to 5 days. The company claims its test is 99.9 percent accurate, and it’s as reliable as the tests doctors and hospitals use.

The test isn’t covered by insurance, but FSA and HSA payments are accepted. If you receive a positive result, you get free telemedicine consultations with STI counselors and doctors.

Pros

  • The test is 99.9 percent accurate at detecting HIV.
  • If you test positive, you receive free access to counselors and doctors via telemedicine.
  • Results are available on a HIPAA secure online account, according to the company.

Cons

  • It requires a finger prick.
  • Health insurance isn’t accepted.
  • Results take up to 5 days.

ProductPriceMethodResults timeAccuracy
OraQuick$at home20–40 minutes99.9% for negative results, 92% for positive results
Everlywell$–$$lab-basedwithin 5 business daysmore than 99%
LetsGetChecked$–$$lab-basedwithin 5 business daysas accurate as tests done in healthcare facilities
Nurx$$–$$$lab-basedwithin 5 business daysnot specified
My LabBox$$lab-based2–5 business daysmore than 99.9%

When it comes to picking a home HIV test, your preferences are important. If you’re not a fan of needles or blood, you may prefer the OraQuick test, which only requires an oral swab.

If you want advice from a doctor on next steps, you might prefer Everlywell or LetsGetChecked. If you’re looking to get tested for a spectrum of STIs at once, Nurx could be a great option.

Cost is also a factor, as insurance doesn’t usually cover at-home HIV tests. Even if you are insured, your plan might only cover some of the testing, not the full cost.

Another factor to consider is test availability, as it can change depending on your location. Some tests may not be sold where you live. Even if they are available, if you live in a remote place with limited options for sending a lab-based test back, it could be easier to opt for something that’s self-contained and done completely at home.

Testing outside of the United States

Rapid tests that have been approved for HIV home testing outside of the United States include:

  • Atomo HIV Self Test. This test is available in Australia and has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the country’s regulatory agency. It tests for HIV in 15 minutes.
  • autotest VIH. This test is only available in certain parts of Europe. It tests for HIV in 15 to 20 minutes. However, this service is temporarily unavailable, as the company has shifted focus to filling demand for COVID-19 testing.
  • INSTI HIV Self Test. This test launched in the Netherlands in 2017 and can be purchased everywhere except the United States. It promises results within 60 seconds.
  • Simplitude ByMe HIV Test. This test launched in July 2020 and is available in the United Kingdom. It tests for HIV in 15 minutes.

These particular tests all rely on a blood sample taken from the fingertip.

None of them have been FDA approved for use in the United States. However, the autotest VIH, INSTI, and Simplitude ByMe kits all have CE marking. This means a product complies with the safety, health, and environmental standards set forth by the European Economic Area (EEA).

How soon can a rapid test detect HIV?

A rapid antibody test can detect HIV 23 to 90 days after exposure. Tests that use blood from a vein usually provide faster results than ones that use a finger prick or cheek swab.

However, vein-based testing isn’t something you can generally do at home. This type of test requires a healthcare professional to draw blood.

What does a rapid HIV test detect?

Rapid HIV tests work by detecting antibodies to HIV in a sample of blood or saliva. These proteins are usually present within a few months of infection, but if you recently contracted the virus, the proteins may not be present or detectable yet.

The CDC provides more information on specific types of HIV tests and when they can accurately detect the virus.

Can a rapid HIV test be wrong?

Yes. A rapid HIV test can sometimes produce positive results in people who don’t have HIV. This is called a false positive.

These tests can also produce false-negative results, which happen when someone who has HIV tests negative. The accuracy depends on the specific test used.

More often than not, a positive test will require a follow-up assessment and blood test to make sure the result is accurate. At-home testing companies may recommend visiting a healthcare professional in-person for this.

Additionally, if you test negative but are at higher risk and suspect you may have contracted the virus, consult with a healthcare professional to see what’s best for you and to get retested.

Are home HIV tests accurate?

Home tests are an accurate way to test for HIV. However, they may take longer to detect the virus after exposure than tests performed at a doctor’s office.

The vast majority of at-home HIV tests are antibody-only tests. These don’t test for HIV antigen, which is typically included in a fourth-generation HIV test done at a hospital or doctor’s office. However, Everlywell’s at-home HIV test is also a fourth-generation test and does detect antigens, so it may be the most reliable at-home option.

Simply stated, most rapid HIV tests are less accurate than medical office tests because tests for HIV antibodies and antigens can detect an infection sooner. The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test may not detect HIV as quickly as a blood test.

What are the benefits of home HIV tests?

HIV can be much easier to manage and treat if identified early and treatment is started quickly.

Home HIV tests allow people to receive results almost immediately — sometimes within minutes — without having to wait for an appointment with a healthcare professional or to take time out of their schedule to visit a lab.

Early identification is essential for successful long-term treatment with HIV.

Home tests empower people to learn whether they have the virus earlier than any other testing methods. Early detection can help people seek treatment quickly and also prevent people from unknowingly transmitting the virus.

Early treatment can suppress the virus to undetectable levels, which makes HIV untransmittable. A viral load of fewer than 50 copies per milliliter (mL) of blood is considered to be undetectable.

Finding a reliable, licensed lab is important for ensuring accurate test results. To find a lab for a blood sample in the United States:

  • Go to gettested.cdc.gov to enter location and find a nearby lab or clinic.
  • Call 800-232-4636 (800-CDC-INFO).
  • Visit the nearest local public health center.

These resources can also help people get tested for other STIs.

In the first few weeks after a person has contracted HIV, they may notice flu-like symptoms. These symptoms include:

During the early stages, which is known as primary infection or acute HIV infection, HIV is much easier to transmit to others because levels of virus in the blood are very high.

A person should consider taking an HIV test if they experience these symptoms after the following activities:

  • having sex without a condom or another barrier method
  • using injection drugs
  • receiving a blood transfusion or being an organ recipient, though these are rarely connected with HIV

If you test positive on a home test, talk with a doctor as soon as possible to discuss your test results and treatment and to get a blood-based test.

Starting treatment early can prevent the development of AIDS, and it can also decrease the time it takes for HIV to become undetectable, which can help reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others.

Getting a negative test result more than 3 months since exposure usually rules out a case of HIV.

If it’s been less than 3 months since exposure, consider taking another HIV test at the end of the 3-month period to be sure. During that time, it’s best to use condoms during sex and avoid sharing needles.

If you receive a positive result, a qualified lab should retest the sample or a new sample to check the accuracy. Getting a positive result on a follow-up test means an HIV diagnosis.

If you test positive, it’s recommended to talk with a healthcare professional as soon as possible to discuss treatment options.

A healthcare professional can help start antiretroviral therapy right away. This is a medication that helps stop HIV from replicating and can help prevent transmission of HIV.

It’s important to use condoms, dental dams, or other barrier methods with any and all sexual partners while waiting for test results or until the virus becomes undetectable. It’s also always best to refrain from sharing needles.

Speaking with a therapist or joining a support group, whether in person or online, can help you cope with the emotions and health questions that come with an HIV diagnosis. Managing HIV can be stressful and difficult to discuss with close friends and family.

Speaking privately with a therapist or being part of a community of others with the same health condition can help you lead a healthy, active life after diagnosis.

Seeking additional help from healthcare professionals, such as social workers or counselors often associated with HIV clinics, can also help you cope with issues related to treatment. These professionals can help navigate scheduling, transportation, finances, and more.

Products to try

Barrier methods, such as condoms and dental dams, can help prevent the transmission of STIs.

Shop for them online:

People can test for other STIs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, using home testing kits. These tests usually consist of taking a urine sample or a swab from the genital area and sending it to a lab facility for testing.

The test should be repeated if a person received negative results but they’re experiencing symptoms.

Another option is to have a healthcare professional order another test to ensure that the results are accurate.

Read this article in Spanish.