​How to Use an OraQuick HIV Test

Please note — if you believe you have been exposed to HIV within in the last 72 hours, go immediately to your health care provider or an emergency room doctor and request post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). OraQuick does not give accurate results for recent exposures that occur less than 3 months before testing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 1 in 8 U.S. Americans with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) don’t know they are infected. You can find out your HIV status from home in 5 easy steps using the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved self-test, OraQuick. The test does not need to be mailed in for results and is, therefore, completely confidential. In as few as 20 minutes, OraQuick can detect HIV infection 3 months after possible exposure to HIV.  Here’s how to obtain your HIV status:

  1. Purchase an OraQuick test kit. Go online or to your local drug store and purchase an OraQuick test kit, which costs approximately $40. You do not need a prescription, but you do need to be at least 17 years of age to purchase.

    OraQuick, courtesy of Cosmopolitan

    Important:  Do not eat, drink, or use oral care products such as toothpaste, whitening strips, or mouthwash before testing. If you have used any of these or similar products, wait at least 30 minutes before using OraQuick. Also, remove dentures, mouth guards, or retainers.

  2. Swab your gums. Using the test stick, swab your upper gums only once on one side of the pad; then, swab your lower gums only once on the opposite side of the pad.

    Swab, courtesy of oraquick.com
  3. Place test stick into test tube. Open the test tube, being careful not to spill any fluid. Place the test stick into the test tube with the test window facing you. Do not remove the test stick once it has been placed into the test solution.

    Test fluid, courtesy of oraquick.com
  4. Read test results. Wait 20-40 minutes (results are unreliable before 20 minutes and after 40 minutes). The C-line should appear, this assures your kit is working properly. If there is no C-line, obtain a new test kit and start again. If a T-line does not appear, the test has not detected antibodies and is negative. If a T-line appears, even a faint line, the test has detected antibodies and is positive.

    Test results, courtesy of oraquick.com
  5. Dispose of OraQuick test kit. Place the used kit into the disposal bag provided and seal it to help protect the privacy of your results. Then, discard the bag into a trash can.

    Garbage can, courtesy of 123RF.com

If your test is negative and exposure occurred less than 3 months from the time of the OraQuick home test, repeat the test at the 3 month mark or shortly after. This is because OraQuick looks for antibodies, and it could take up to 3 months for your body to produce enough antibodies for the test to detect. Therefore, if done too early, the test can result in a false negative. If your test is positive, contact a medical professional as soon as possible to confirm the results using a blood test.

Remember that HIV can be managed with antiretroviral therapy (ART) and proper primary care. The best way to protect your health and the health of your sexual partners is to engage in protected sex, have regular HIV screenings, and talk to your health care provider about reproductive health.

Recommended media:


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Talk testing [image]. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/actagainstaids/campaigns/starttalking/testing.html
  2. OraQuick. (2017). Taking the test. Retrieved from http://www.oraquick.com/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). HIV/AIDS. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov

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