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HIV damages the body’s immune system. But with treatment called antiretroviral therapy, HIV is a manageable health condition. In fact, treatment can make HIV undetectable in the body, which makes the virus untransmissible sexually. This is known as U=U.

About 1.2 million people in the United States live with HIV today, and 14 percent of them (1 in 7) don’t know they have it. At-home HIV tests are one way to know HIV status. They can help eliminate an in-person doctor’s visit and save you time, and help get treatment started sooner if needed.

Read on to learn about the different types of at-home HIV tests, plus our recommendations.

There are two types of at-home HIV tests on the market. It’s important to follow the test’s instructions carefully, which may vary by test:

  • An antigen/antibody test looks for both HIV antibodies and antigens. Antibodies are produced by the immune system when exposed to viruses like HIV. Antigens are foreign substances that cause the immune system to activate. For HIV, an antigen called p24 is produced even before antibodies develop. Antibodies can take up to 3 months to develop. These tests are performed with a blood draw.
  • An antibody test looks for antibodies (IgG) to HIV in the blood or oral fluid. In general, antibody tests that use blood from a vein can detect HIV sooner than an at-home test done with blood from a finger prick or with oral fluid. Antibodies take time to show up in the blood.

There are also different methods that can scan for HIV:

  • Oral swab. A quick oral swab is all that’s required to check for HIV antibodies in the saliva. It takes anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes for results. But saliva and blood may have different sensitivities when being tested for HIV. Sensitivity is the ability to get a true lab result. According to a 2019 paper in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, blood is more sensitive than saliva.
  • Finger prick. These over-the-counter tests require pricking a finger in the same way blood sugar or ketone levels are measured. The sample goes on a special paper that’s sent to a testing lab. It can take up to 7 business days to get the results.
  • Urine sample or vaginal swab. Some tests check for multiple STIs. Depending on the specific infection, they may require an additional urine sample or vaginal swab to be sent to a lab.

To compile this list, we looked at at-home HIV tests offered by CLIA certified labs, their cost, results for delivery time, insurance or health savings spending approval, and ease of purchasing.

Best overall

Everlywell

  • Price: $49.99 with free shipping; HSA/FSA accepted
  • Type of sample: Finger prick
  • Results: Within 5 business days

This test screens for HIV antibodies. Tests can be purchased on the Everlywell website or at Walmart or Amazon.

When you send the blood sample, it will be tested at a CLIA certified lab. Your information is stored in an encrypted system that accommodates HIPAA security.

You’ll get a detailed digital report with your results. The test screens for antibodies that can take 23 to 90 days to be detectable after exposure. This HIV test can usually detect an HIV infection in only 18 to 45 days after exposure because it also checks for HIV p24 antigens (viral proteins) in the blood.

If test results are positive, you can connect with Everlywell’s physician network at no additional cost.

Best for frequent testing

LetsGetChecked

  • Price: $149; membership option saves 30 percent; HSA/FSA eligible
  • Type of sample: Finger prick and urine sample
  • Results: Within 2–5 business days

LetsGetChecked is a testing company that offers several options at various price points. The HIV test is included in a combo package called the Standard 5, which checks for:

  • HIV
  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • trichomoniasis
  • syphilis

The other option is to purchase the Complete 8 package. It includes the five STIs listed above and the bacteria Mycoplasma, Ureaplasma, and Gardnerella (bacterial vaginosis). The price for the Complete 8 is $349.

After the lab results are ready, a physician will review your report. You can then arrange a call with a LetsGetChecked clinician if you have any questions or concerns.

If medication is needed, you can get it at no additional charge. Prescribing guidelines vary by state and diagnosis. All shipments arrive at your door in discreet packaging.

The membership option sends you tests every 3 months.

Best for fast delivery

myLAB Box

  • Price: $79
  • Type of sample: Finger prick
  • Results: 2–5 business days

The myLAB Box HIV test is a combination antigen/antibody test. The test detects HIV p24 antigen and antibodies to HIV type 1 (HIV-1 groups M and O) and HIV type 2 (HIV-2) in human blood.

According to the company, the test is 99.9 percent accurate. Each test kit comes with detailed instructions and illustrations.

The test uses a self-collected finger prick blood mailed to a qualified lab. The company says two-way postage and lab service fees are included in the cost.

MyLAB Box also offers post-test counseling via telehealth to provide assistance and to answer your questions.

You retrieve test results by logging into a secure portal. MyLAB Box tests are also available via Amazon.

Best HIV-specific option

Verisana

  • Price: $69
  • Type of sample: Finger prick
  • Results: Within 3 weeks

Through Verisana, you can order an HIV test or combination STI testing package. You collect your blood sample, send it back to them, and Verisana will provide you with your HIV status.

If test results are positive, Verisana encourages you to talk with your doctor about treatment options. There’s no counseling option available through their service.

You can purchase the test through their website or Amazon. You can order an HIV test or combination STI testing package, which ranges from $199.95 to $299. Like the others on this list, Verisana uses CLIA certified labs.

Best flexible option

Health Testing Centers

  • Price: $79; HSA/FSA accepted
  • Type of sample: Finger prick
  • Results: 2–3 business days

This discreet at-home antigen/antibody combination test scans for the p24 antigen and antibodies for HIV-1 and HIV-2.

The test kit will be mailed via USPS. You’ll receive a dried blood spot card and other test kit materials. You then ship your sample via USPS back to the laboratory. Once your results are ready, an email will advise you to log into your account to view your results.

The company uses a CLIA certified lab. Kits can be canceled anytime before sending the sample to the lab, but there is a $25 fee to cover the kit costs and shipping.

Best for tracking in an app

iDNA

  • Price: $78
  • Type of sample: Finger prick
  • Results: Varies

Private iDNA offers Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved testing for HIV-1 and HIV-2, as well as other STIs. The kit will arrive in a plain, unbranded package. It comes complete with easy-to-follow directions for taking your own samples.

Once you receive the test, send the blood sample back and the company will test it at one of its CLIA and CAP accredited labs. There are three shipping options: first class, business, and overnight. Shipping is charged after you enter credit card information.

Users can track their test from administration through testing and read their results online or in its app. You can also receive results through email.

Private iDNA doesn’t offer physician support if tests results are positive. Instead, the company offers a free retest to confirm the results.

Best budget option

OraQuick

  • Price: $39.99; qualifies for HSA/FSA spending
  • Type of sample: Oral swab
  • Results: Within 20 minutes

This is the first FDA approved at-home HIV test on the market. It tests for antibodies.

To get tested with OraQuick, you only need an oral swab. All orders are delivered in an unmarked brown box to ensure privacy.

The OraQuick may detect HIV within 2 weeks of infection, but it may take longer depending on the person. Experts caution users should view the results as preliminary.

The kit includes step-by-step instructions. All results are confidential. It screens for HIV-1 and HIV-2. A positive result does not mean definitively mean infection, only that more testing is necessary. A negative result may not be accurate if you have been exposed within the last 3 months.

Are at-home HIV tests accurate?

The results of at-home HIV tests are more than 99 percent accurate. Only OraQuick is cautioned to be preliminary.

According to a 2018 article published in The Lancet, “Self-testers can reliably and accurately do HIV rapid diagnostic tests, as compared with trained health-care workers.”

Who should get tested?

Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested at least once in their life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some people have a higher risk of contracting HIV, according to HIV.gov. Even if you’ve had a past test, it’s recommended to get retested if you answer yes to any of the following questions since your last test:

  • Are you a male who has had sex with another male?
  • Have you had sex — anal or vaginal — with an HIV-positive partner?
  • Have you had more than one sexual partner?
  • Have you injected drugs and shared needles or works (for example, water or cotton) with others?
  • Have you received a diagnosis of or treatment for another STI?
  • Have you received a diagnosis of or treatment for hepatitis or tuberculosis?
  • Have you had sex with someone who could answer “yes” to any of the above questions, or someone whose sexual history you don’t know?

How often should I get tested?

Men who have sex with men may benefit from more frequent testing (for example, every 3 to 6 months).

Many people have HIV for years and don’t know it. People with a higher risk of contracting HIV should get tested more frequently. Even if you are in a monogamous relationship, consider getting tested with your partner.

It’s also a good idea for pregnant people to get tested. If they have HIV, treatment can help prevent transmission during pregnancy.

Should I take an at-home HIV test or get one at the doctor’s office?

There’s no special preparation necessary to get an HIV test. Choosing one or the other may be a matter of convenience. If you want to talk with a doctor in person after taking the HIV test, an office visit may be better for you.

When should I be tested?

Most tests look for antibodies that the body produces to fight HIV infection. They don’t develop immediately, but do start to show up within a few weeks to 6 months.

Will I have to pay for the test out of pocket?

Most insurance companies pay for HIV tests, as do most plans under the Affordable Care Act. Some pharmacies or community health centers offer free testing too.

Some at-home tests can be paid for with a health spending account. But directly purchased tests may not be covered by private health insurance or Medicaid. Check with your insurance provider or your doctor about reimbursement before buying one.

Will anyone know my result?

If you take an anonymous test, no one but you will know the result. If you take a confidential test, your test result will be part of your medical record. It’s protected by state and federal privacy laws.

Should I share my result with others?

Yes. It’s very important to share your status with your sexual partners. You may disclose your status to others if you wish, but you’re under no obligation.

While insurance companies must have your permission to view your health record, you may be charged higher prices with a chronic condition.

Federal law now prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to people who have HIV or AIDS. And there may be a waiting period before a chronic condition is covered by insurance.

Does a negative HIV test mean my partner has the same result?

No. Your HIV test only indicates your status. Partners may have differing results.

What are some early symptoms of HIV?

Some early symptoms of HIV are:

  • fever
  • chills
  • rash
  • night sweats
  • muscle aches
  • sore throat
  • fatigue
  • swollen lymph nodes

Better access to HIV testing allows people to start treatment sooner. Today, there are many easy, convenient options for testing. You can walk into your neighborhood pharmacy and pick up an at-home HIV test or order one online.

HIV is no longer the devastating disease it was in the 1980s and 1990s. Thanks to advancements in medicine, HIV is now an incredibly manageable condition, and people with HIV can live a long, healthy life.


Tracee Herbaugh is a writer and journalist who lives in the Boston area. She writes about culture, lifestyle, health, and family relationships. You can view her workonline or find her onTwitter.