Study of the Day: Saliva HIV Test as Accurate as Blood Screening

New research suggests that oral HIV self-tests can serve as an effective preliminary method of diagnosis, much like home pregnancy tests.

main Yiorgos Karahalis Reuters  RTXO0IP.jpg

PROBLEM: Getting people tested with a traditional HIV blood screening has been hard because patients often feel stigmatized and exposed in public clinics. Can an oral HIV self-test serve as an effective but much more private alternative?

METHODOLOGY: Scientists led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre's Dr. Nitika Pant Pai conducted a meta-analysis of studies involving blood-based specimens and OraQuick HIV1/2, the only oral fluid test approved for use in a health-care setting by the Food and Drug Administration. To evaluate this saliva test's potential for worldwide use, they analyzed real-life field research data from five global databases.

RESULTS: Compared to a traditional blood screening, the saliva test was 99 percent accurate in detecting HIV in high-risk populations and about 97 percent in low-risk populations. High-risk groups include injection drug users, men who have sex with men, and people who have unprotected sex.

CONCLUSION: A saliva test's ability to detect HIV antibodies is comparable to a standard blood screening's.

IMPLICATION: Much like a home pregnancy test, an oral test can serve as a preliminary method of self-diagnosis for those who want a more convenient and private alternative to a traditional HIV blood screening.

SOURCE: The full study, "Head-to-Head Comparison of Accuracy of a Rapid Point-of-Care HIV Test With Oral Versus Whole-Blood Specimens: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis," is published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Image: Yiorgos Karahalis/Shutterstock.

Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Health

Just In