Can a brush of the gums indicate if you have HIV? An oral self-test aims to do just that

From CBC News

A quick brush of the gums and you’ll know your HIV status. No blood required. 

That’s the kind of painless, fast and accurate HIV testing researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto are hoping will become the norm for Canadians as the researchers test OraQuick, a rapid oral self-test that will deliver results in 20 minutes. 

The federal government estimates about 62,000 people in Canada have the disease, based on surveillance data. But only about 87 per cent of those with HIV have been diagnosed, leaving about 13 per cent who may not know they are positive, it says.

While the test is new to Canada, OraQuick was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012. 

St. Michael’s is now testing OraQuick at two Toronto sexual health clinics, Hassle Free Clinic and Maple Leaf Medical Clinic, along with several others across Canada. Trials at the Toronto clinics started last week. 

The study will look at the test’s accuracy and ease of use. OraSure Technologies, which created OraQuick, estimates the test has a 92 per cent accuracy rate. 

“The test is easier than the COVID test,” said Sean Rourke, a clinical neuropsychologist and one of the leaders of the study. 

Advances in HIV treatment mean that ideally, once diagnosed, a person can access medications that allow them to live a long life and not transmit the disease, even through unprotected intercourse or by giving birth, he said.

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