POSTED: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - 8:00am
UPDATED: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - 8:00am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — For the first time consumers can buy a test at a drug store and find out their HIV status in less than half an hour.
While most experts are thrilled that this will expand access to HIV testing, many are cautious -saying the price tag is too steep for those who need it most.
The over-the-counter tests cost roughly $40.
Douglas Michaels is the president of the company that makes the OraQuick in-home HIV test.
He says it goes a long way in eliminating barriers to testing for the virus that leads to aids.
Results from the oral swab test are available within 20 minutes.
"This test is accessible, it's convenient, it's easy to use, and you can test confidentially," Michaels says.
Outside experts agree.
Expanding access to a rapid HIV test can only help the estimated 240,000 people who don't know they're HIV positive.
The sticking point is that $40 price tag.
Some say it's too high for the poor, who are disproportionately affected by aids.
"I don't think this is a game changer, I don't think it's realistic to think that this test - particularly priced at 40 dollars at the retail - is going to do a whole lot to contain this epidemic," says the Yale School of Public Health's Dr. David Paltiel.
The test looks for HIV antibodies in the body, not the virus itself.
Doctors say it's important to see a doctor with any positive results for confirmation.
Also, it does not give license to have risky sex and it will not help the morning after a night of unprotected sex.
"This test is going to be an accurate portrayal of your HIV infection status six to eight weeks ago, not what happened last night," Dr. Paltiel explains.
Still, it might give those who are reluctant to go to the doctor a way to check their HIV status at home.