An at home HIV test?

The reason why many people don’t go get regular HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) testing is because they are embarrassed to talk to their healthcare practitioner (HCP) that they have a relationship with, and get nervous to go to STD clinics because they are worried about stigma if they see anyone they know. One way to break that stigma? the new OraQuick at home HIV testing kit. It only takes about 20 minutes to get results, and has everything that you need to test yourself for HIV-1 and HIV-2 (the two main strains of HIV).  Of course, if you are at high risk for STI’s and have symptoms, you should still go and get a full HIV and STI panel of testing with physical assessment by your HCP. But it is fast, efficient HIV testing in the comfort of your own home; but how it works might be confusing.

 How does the at-home test work?

This OraQuick HIV test is the only FDA approved at home HIV testing kit currently on the market.  The kit comes with very easy to read and specific directions, but the test itself does not require any blood, so you do not need to poke or prick yourself to draw blood.  It uses the fluid and cells from your gums to test for the HIV antibodies; you just need to use the swab that is included in the kit, rub it over your upper and lower gums, then put it in a little test tube of fluid (provided).  That will test the cells and fluid of your gums for the HIV antibody and you will have your results in 20 minutes. The results read in a similar fashion to a pregnancy test, there is always one line that should show, once you start the test, which is the control line, to let you know that the test is working properly.  If both lines illuminate, then you are positive.  Of course positive results do need to be sent to a lab for a further test and you need to have them confirmed by an HCP, just to ensure that the test is correct. They offer 24/7 support online, along with videos on how to perform the test and interpret the results directly on their website.

Where can I get the test?

You can buy the OraQuick at any local pharmacy here in the US (CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Rite Aid, and Navarro.)  And you can also check out the OraQuick website to purchase the test directly from them.  The tests cost $39.99 USD per test and are good for one sample.

The bottom line?

If you are specifically in need of HIV screening/testing, this is a great option for those without an HCP or if you cannot get into a clinic for testing. That being said, if you are at risk for HIV, you are most likely at risk for other STI’s and I do suggest getting checked out by an HCP so they can physically assess you and test for a whole array of STI’s that you may or may not be aware that you are at risk for.  HIV is just one of many Sexually Transmitted Infections, so please know your risks, cut those risks by using condoms, or other barrier methods, to prevent the spread of infection. So be safe, choose your partners wisely, and get tested frequently.

Yours in Good Health



Antibiotic Resistant STD’s: Our Reality

In this day and age where HIV is thought of as more of a chronic disease than a fear of certain death, and adolescents are having sex at earlier ages and using less protection, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise. There is a common misconception that every STI can be easily treated with antibiotics, so if you catch something from some random partner, no biggie, get some pills from your HCP and in 7-10 days you are good to go again.  WRONG! Thinking like that has caused and overuse of antibiotics for STIs which has led to antibiotic resistant STIs and the most common one is gonorrhea, which also happens to be one of the more frequently transmitted STIs. There are 600,000 new cases of gonorrhea documented every single year in the US alone (per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

Is gonorrhea harder to treat now?

So the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been tracking Neisseria gonorrhoeae since the mid 1980’s because it was an infection that was treated easily as it responded to many different antibiotic groups and regimens, unlike most bacteria.  It was officially monitored in 1986 as the Gonnococcal Surveillance Isolate Project (GISP) to look at patterns of the infection, treatment responses, and to make recommendations for treatment.  In 2010, the data that emerged was that 27.2% of all cases of gonorrhea in the US were resistant to one of the common treatment antibiotics: penicillin, tetracycline, and ciproflaxin.  Another approximately 7% were resistant to all three antibiotics in combination. Now in 2012 the recommendations are for a combination of two different antibiotics to cover all of the bacteria; but w need to remember that along with antibiotic resistance in bacteria, humans also are becoming more allergic to antibiotics, so while we can can create antibiotic “cocktails” to kill off these bacteria as they become more resistant, the other challenge becomes what we are able to give to patients based on their allergies.  It can become quite difficult to treat these bacteria.  The big fear is the cephalosporin resistant gonorrhea, in which strains have been found in other countries but we have not had any documented cases in the US.  We have very few, if any, currently FDA approved drugs to treat that strain, as cephalosporins are very powerful in treating gram positive and gram negative bacteria.  There are drugs in other countries that are used to treat this strain, but they have not been proven safe or effective by the US FDA.

Is it Rampant?

Various strains of antibiotic resistant gonorrhea are found readily throughout the US and worldwide, and at this point we still have antibiotic combinations that we can use to treat the bacteria.  The big fear by HCPs is that the more resistant strains will be brought from other countries and into ours, thus spreading further, and we do not have adequate drugs to treat this strain.  It is a bigger and bigger threat the more these gonorrhea infections keep spreading.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

It can be a silent infection, usually affecting women’s cervix and if left untreated then moving into the uterus and fallopian tubes, which can lead to infertility.  Some other symptoms for women are:

-abnormal bleeding

-burning when urinating

-heavy vaginal discharge (may have a strong odor)

-general irritation of the outside of the vagina

Again, for men the symptoms may be silent, and are usually only visible in approximately 20% of cases.  For men, symptoms include:

-discharge from the tip of the penis

-frequent urination with blood present

-a burning sensation with urination

-a swelling of the glands in the groin

-the tip of the penis may turn bright red

*If the symptoms are in the rectum or throat, pain, swelling, and discharge most often occur.

What can I do to prevent it?

To prevent getting these strains of gonorrhea, you need to protect yourself from getting any STI:

-Abstain from sex

-Practice safe sex, use condoms (and/or other barrier methods) with vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

-Only have sexual intercourse in a monogamous relationship

Also, get tested regularly for STIs and encourage your partner(s) to do the same.  You need to look out for yourself and protect yourself.  No one is worth doing permanent harm to your body and reproductive organs, right?  So look out for yourself, and empower yourself by getting frequently tested, and encourage others to do the same, along with practice safe sex. Talk to your HCP about your risk, how often you should get tested, and if you are allergic to antibiotics, what your treatment options are.  So be safe and stay clean!

Yours in Good Health