FIRST PERSON: Home HIV-Testing Kits Offer “No Guidance… No Emotional Support”

Oh, it’s a GREAT idea. It’ll get ALL the people who don’t have the guts to show up at a real testing center! Everyone has a DUTY to get tested to PROTECT other people, and ANYTHING we can do to get MORE tests is BETTER, right?

…until YOU’RE the one whose positive result blindsides you, with nothing more than a stick of plastic and a customer-service operator who’d rather be painting her nails than providing consolation. Suddenly, there are some rather glaring issues.

If someone isn’t mature/bold enough to go to a testing center, how are they supposed to be mature enough to handle a positive result? Alone? Perhaps while on a lunch break, or while a partner waits in the other room? If an HIV test is just too much strain for them, how the hell are they going to get hooked into the medical care that is necessary? Counseling is a vital link in the testing process. Without it, all you have is a result that tells you nothing, that protects no one and that could promote suicidal or homicidal reactions.

Or do we, as Queerty readers, merely accept that the value of human life ends abruptly at “your test came back positive”? That’s what I hear when people babble about the “NEED” to get tested for everyone, without understanding the roller coaster of emotions that arise if the results come back as something other than negative.

I tested positive from Home Access. The post-test counseling was a joke. There was no guidance to medical care, no emotional support, NOTHING. I was really lucky to live in a city with a fairly decent HIV support system, with friends who I hadn’t demonized for their status. If I’d been on my own, or if the result had come at a different time, things could have gone horribly wrong. I’ve heard similarly from other people who tested positive with home tests.

Justifying this test on the basis of “the need for testing” is to divorce the act of testing from anything that brings value to it, and implicitly, to wash our hands of the whole process in all its complexity. It demonstrates how little we value people who get “the wrong result” and it neglects the reality that many of these people may not behave as we’d like them to.

That’s right kiddos, a bitter faggot whose stick of plastic just told him he’s a pariah might not give a shit about YOUR health. In fact, he might even be out to get you.

…Or he might just decide to enjoy his new status more than he should and go a little wild, quickly allowing himself to become a “hub” in our spoke/hub model of transmission. Hell, in his despair, he might even remove a condom behind your back.

“OH NO!”

Suddenly, when your precious lives could be affected, it isn’t such a good idea, is it? Gee, maybe we want to make sure that these people aren’t bitter, disaffected and filled with a sense that they’ve got nothing to lose.

And hey, maybe, after screaming that “everyone has a duty to test” without giving two shits about what happens afterward, you’ll find yourself swabbing your cheek on a lunch break one day, only to determine that you’ve had contact with one of these maniacs who went off the deep end without a life saver. I hope you remember that it was all part of your obligation to avoid being a “public health hazard.”

—Queerty reader Mitch, responding to the Queerty Query: Are Rapid Home HIV Tests A Good Idea?

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  • MKisNE

    Yeah they need an 800 number and a website. But I still really hope this happens because I do think I’ll test much more often.

  • Make It Great

    I have four, count them…FOUR, friends who got postive results at a clinic and they received NO EMOTIONAL SUPPORT from the service providers. According to them, the nonchalant attitudes of the people that delivered the news made them feel worse. And, their stories aren’t abnormal; a lot of people go through this. So, like MKisNE, I support a 1-800 number. I, too, think I would test more often if I could do it at home.

  • bystander

    Oh my god, if you’re such a fucking pussy you can’t take a hiv test without someone holding your hand, than fine, go to a clinic. But don’t try to impose your lack of maturity on everyone else by stalling a simple test that should have been on the selves years ago.

  • Well

    Don’t fuck it up for the rest of us. I want this home test to be available.

    I’d MUCH rather deal with a positive result by myself in the privacy of my own house and knowing I have complete and utter control over that information. I would NEVER EVER want to receive the news from a stranger. The doctor or counselor is not your friend – they are just plastering on a sympathetic face and following a script that you can as easily read online – I fail to see any value in that, at all.

  • MikeE

    @Well: to be fair, when my doctor had to tell me I was HIV positive (23 years ago), he cried and hugged me.

    The REAL difficulty was that my doctor was an hour and a half away from my house by public transit. Which meant trying to get home afterward in a haze of emotions.

  • Will

    Wow, someone sounds bitter. Not every person who uses this is going to go off the deep end. Just because you get tested at a facility or dr’s office doesn’t mean that someone still won’t be angry and do something crazy or that whoever is there is going to be able to stop it. A friend of mine came to me crying after having a horrible experience testing postive for a curable STI, once he tested positive they really pushed him for personal information about partners he had been with. He wasn’t out and neither was the guy who gave it to him. I understand we need to stop the spread of disease but we still live in an America where if outed we can loose our jobs, homes, friends and family. If they had something like this for chlamydia he could have treated himself discretly and told the person he was seeing discretly and not had to deal with the pressure that facility put him under.

  • Well

    Even if you are a 100% out flaming queer, you might still be an intensely private person when dealing with intimate health-related things. Not to mention having control over what goes into your medical records in this age where everything that goes through a doctor really becomes public knowledge as soon as your insurance gets any whiff of it, and not to mention the number of states where there are reporting requirements, to the state authorities, when someone tests positive for HIV. In fact, I know people who simply do not feel comfortable asking their doctor for an HIV test because of this lack of privacy, and as a result simply don’t get tested. I myself get tested less often than I probably should because I hate asking my doctor for it and waiting for the results. As for counseling, you must be joking. Have you actually been tested through an average doctor, or endured the horror of getting tested in an ER? Give me a break!

  • J Bocca

    Wow what an attitude riddled article. First of all, HIV isn’t the end all be all of diseases, Thousands of people a day come to terms with countless illnesses across this country. Why should HIV patients be coddled to as if they are emotionally immature?! I mean what support do they need that a cancer patient wouldn’t need? And also why is it a “health professionals” job to emotionally support someone coming in for a medical service? Isn’t that what friends/family/psychiatric help is for? HIV home tests kits do what they are supposed to do, TELL YOU YOUR STATUS. Which everyone should be aware of, if you know what an HIV test is, then you know what HIV is and you know how to pick up a phone and call your doctor if you are positive. It’s not rocket science.

  • Rockery

    “If someone isn’t mature/bold enough to go to a testing center, how are they supposed to be mature enough to handle a positive result? Alone? Perhaps while on a lunch break, or while a partner waits in the other room? If an HIV test is just too much strain for them, how the hell are they going to get hooked into the medical care that is necessary?”

    What’s the alternative? just not getting tested? If they aren’t bold enough to go to the testing center this won’t change it, and if this is too scary for someone – pretend it does not exist do what you would have done otherwise (ie: not get tested or go to the testing center) it seems pretty straightforward to me

  • Bipolar Bear

    The ideal situation would be a gay-run or gay-friendly testing centre where you can go and receive adequate professional support should your diagnosis be positive. I feel very lucky to be in a country where we have a great service provided by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation that does precisely this: http://fastest.co.nz/

    Home testing kits are a bad idea. I’m concerned about their efficacy, I’m concerned that people will use them as a green card for barebacking and give themselves a false sense of security, and I’m concerned about someone getting that positive diagnosis when they’re home on their own with no support.

    HIV may not be a death-sentence any more but it is still life-changing.

  • Joe dalmas

    What a ridiculous article. This test should be made available to everyone, period. Most of us are mature enough to handle a positive test result without falling to hysterical pieces. Besides, a clinic test does NOT guarantee any emotional support. If you can’t handle a positive test result, then go to a doctor and pray, but don’t deprive the rest of us of the possibility of testing as often as we’d like.

  • Tom

    These comments are hilarious. We’re on website where 19 year olds who kill themselves after being called names are “victims of bullycide” and homophobia is a major threat. Freak out after a positive test result though, and you’re a “pussy” who “went off the deep end” and “needed to be coddled”. How the hell does that even make sense? The types of people on this website are exactly the types of hysterical twits who freak out and off themselves or go into total shock when they test positive. “Call your doctor”? What a glib, dismissive answer.

  • Andy

    Without these kits, fewer people would get tested. Bottom line.

  • NN

    Personally, I am a younger male and would simply like to know my status. I’ve abstained from sex for quite a while now because I simply just don’t know my status, nor do I know where to go to find that out without having the promise of privacy (which I seem to value more). I don’t desire consolation — I just want to know my damned status for a peace of mind— regardless of the result.

  • Alex

    So a doctor who gives you a card for a support group which you could find on the internet is no different. The doctor who tells you isn’t going to hug you and say sorry. They are medical professionals not therapists. So I approve of these and do not see the difference between going into the clinic and doing this. I go every 6 months and am clean. But I know some people affected.

  • Tony

    @Alex: Of course the doctor isn’t going to hug you. You’re confusing counseling with molestation. He’s also not going to shove a card in your hand and tell you to get out of his office, no matter how bad his bedside manner is. The astonishing ignorance about life with HIV in these comments is proof in and of itself that HIV tests need to be administered by someone who knows what they’re doing. If you Marlboro Men think you’re just gonna give your GP a ring and go about your day, you’re fucking delusional. I bet ya’ll also think you’d just chew your leg off if a tree fell on you in the woods, too.

  • Cynthia_Lee

    I got tested at Planed Parenthood a number of years ago. The woman who had to tell me I was HIV+ fell apart. She was crying as my spouse and I were her first ever positives.
    The amount of guidance and counsiling when I got tested was poorly lacking and inadequite.
    It would have been far better to have tested at home and figure it out from there.

    Your point is poorly made and does not stand up to scrutiny. Just because you think it is a bad idea does not make it so. You are way off base here and have no place to speak on this even if you did get tested. Not everyone needs or wants guidance or counsiling and to assume that it is needed or warented in EVERY case is myopic and does not acount for the personal experiance.

    Please do not write on this topic anymore as you are more likely to cause damage with this veiwpoint than you are to help anyone.
    Take the bitter rhetoric elsewhere.

  • Matt

    This is absurd, Mitch clearly doesn’t understand that people deal with crisis in different ways. The absolute LAST thing I want is for some stranger to freak out at my test result or offer “emotional support” over an intensely personal diagnosis. I’d prefer a home test because I want to start with ME knowing and then dealing with it from there, not some stranger knowing and then telling me.

  • Alex


    lol dude chill out. I am only pointing out that doctors would give the same emotional sympathy as this plastic stick. I don’t like how this article calls people who would use it immature. That’s like saying using a condom is immature. The article says that you just wouldn’t receive the same amount of emotional support as going to a clinic. When in reality you would receive the same amount. Which is to say none at all. When my friend got tested HIV positive the doctor said sorry gave him a support group card and walked away. I am not trying to put myself off as a macho man who would chew off my own leg if caught under a tree. I was merely pointing out the logical fallacies of this article.

  • Cynthia_Lee

    @Matt: Exactly.
    I really did not need the added stress of the nurse falling apart when she was telling me I tested positive. Had I been able to test at home and absorb the implications in the safety of my home it would have been much less traumatic.
    Those who are argueing against these home tests are misguided and myopic.

  • Danny

    Home testing is a good idea as long as you remind people that they can criminally charge anyone who is hiv positive who does not disclose their status to partners. Also, there are some asshole guys out there anyway who infect guys they claim to love just to try to manipulate them into remaining in a relationship. I know guys who had that happen to them. It is a sick world – straights do bad shit like that too so you have to be doubly aware and vigilant no matter who you are or how they do or do not get tested. Of course some guys get revenges against the guy that infected them – plenty of cases of homicide in that scenerio. Bed hopping isn’t a smart idea. And don’t forget all the other diseases that don’t go away like herpes (especially straight people reading this – you straight folks spread herpes like the plague).

  • Scott

    If you don’t think you can emotionally handle receiving a positive test result from the in-home test (and it sounds like the author couldn’t) don’t use it! You can go to a local health clinic or to your doctor to receive the test.

  • Jawsch

    I think the writer of this is just absurd and ridiculous attempting to play upon idiotic fears and a case of Reductio ad Absurdum.

    “Omg if people find out they’re positive, they’ll be so angry they will kill themselves or start trying to spread it to others”

    Really? It doesn’t happen like that NOW, why would this test make anything different?
    I really think the comments Queerty chooses to display are of morons who thrive on the 15 minutes of fame this brings their “name”.

  • nikko

    What does one expectfrom this device, a pat on the back for testing positive??! I have little sympathy for gay guys who play Russian Roulette with theire lives by having unsafe sex. Now own up to your destructive behaviour. All behaviour has consequences, especially sexual behaviour.

  • patrick

    i came out late in life had a hell of a good time, my first friends were porn stars! after countless sex parties, being on porn sets and and many more sex parties i suddenly(and very stupidly) realized that i was fucking poz guys that never saw it as their responsibility to tell me their status! I couldn’t believe anyone would do that thankfully for me i always used condoms which helped a bit i am sure. it took me almost a year to get the guts to get tested -there was NO WAY i could ask my family doc – i ended up being EXTREMLY lucky and am neg. i think having a at home kit is a great idea i think i would have tested much sooner. i dont fuck anymore ..i miss it but i just cant get my self so worked up over going for a test that i just beat off anymore..

  • jj

    @patrick: Uh, yeah, using condoms helped you more than just “a bit”. You weren’t lucky, you were smart. When they’re used properly, they’re highly effective. Glad you had the sense to use them.

  • Larkin

    Knowing is much more important than not knowing. I don’t know what they include with the kit, but something like a ‘tested positive?… call for more info and help in your area’ seems appropriate.

    Really, it’s not much different than a pregnancy test (who some people may also freak out over).

    I fully support these being available on the shelves. HIV is not a death sentence anymore.

  • jj

    Just thought id put this out there, but not everyone lives in new york or los angeles. I grew up in a very small homophobic town which didnt have a free clinic and the only option to get tested would be through one of the TWO doctors and im sure the results wouldnt remain confidential very fast if it tested positive. Maybe if this was around when i was a teen i would have gotten tested more, did you ever think of that?

  • Ryan

    @jj: Good Point!

  • Sternflammende

    My friend, seek counseling. I believe they call this stage “anger” and the rage you are feeling is called “displaced emotion.” I’m sorry no one was there for you, but don’t think that just because your experience was unsatisfactory (understatement, I know) that this new technology is intrinsically negative. This kind of advancement can be very lucrative to people in many walks of life. Afterall, knowledge is power, right?

  • Max

    And what about all the people who are too scared to go to a clinic? My friend didn’t get tested for for three months though he suspected and all throughout those three months he was still fucking people. Said he didn’t want the doctors judging hi,. This Mitch person is asking me to feel more sympathy for the positive. Why? If they’re too afraid, fine whatever, but don’t pretend them not getting the counseling is more important then them getting the results back. I would rather prevent the spread of HIV then appeal to one person’s feelings of inadequacy and despair.

    Also I noticed a Queer Run testing facility idea floating around. I just want to say you do know that not all HIV positive people are Queer right?

  • Ross H. Smith

    The comment is silly. Anybody can go to a clinic, get a positive result, and still engage in the negative actions the writer describes.

  • Tackle

    Some of these health care professionals, doctors, nurses and counslers, need to conduct themselves in a more professional and “calm” manner when informing someone they are HIV positive. Doctors breaking down crying, nurses loosing it and in “many” cases, with a panic stricken voice, calling people to come in and get there results is only traumatizing people even more. To me it’s not professional or dignified, and it sends out the WRONG message. I do not think most are breaking down, but Iv’e heard too many times about the panic voice. Crying, loosing it and the panic voice sends the wrong message.
    You don’t want people to believe because they tested HIV positive, that they have a death sentence.

  • Mark

    While I can sort of see where the comment writer is coming from, I think his logic is heavily misplaced. Reducing the accessibility to care is never a good thing. Which is why the risks that he details are far more less then the potential benefits. Furthermore the “sky is falling” fallacy he uses to arugue against at home tests is severely unfounded. With that logic we should also outlaw home pregnancy tests because a girl might fall down the steps or do something to miscarry her baby if she finds out she’s pregnant when she doesn’t want to be.

  • Nathan

    What’s with all of the name calling? “Pussy, “immature,” “not bold,” etc. Home tests do have the risk of lack of support. HIV testing with a person, even an excellent clinic, does not necessarily mean you have support you need. When I was a tester, I would often with a client decide that testing was probably not the best idea at that time if they really couldn’t identify anyone in their life they would willing to talk to or seek support from if they had a positive result, or if they though they would hurt themselves or someone else if they tested positive. Knowing your status isn’t worth that. So during those times we just did more risk reduction education and talking about where someone could build relationships/access supports that could help them if they experienced crises.

    Everyone takes medical news differently for all different reasons. I definitely support home testing for its convenience, privacy, and accessibility, but it doesn’t mean it is the best idea for everyone. I also think it is important to remember that reactive tests on the home tests are not positive results for HIV, and that it is really just a screener for a more definitive, confirmatory blood test. Those are done in medical settings with health professionals and hopefully support and connection to medical services if indicated/desired. Also, a nonreactive test result does not mean someone is HIV negative, as it takes 3 months for people’s bodies to reliably make a enough antibodies in response to HIV to be picked up by the test. I guess it’s just important to know that this home test is not an HIV test in itself, but does help you stay informed, responsible, and proactive about your own health.

    It’s also nice, even on a forum, to be able to offer support instead of scorn for someone’s reaction to a test result. I bet a lot of people are afraid to talk to their friends if they tested positive if they think they are so judgy.

  • TomMc

    But unlike at the doctor’s office one can drink while waiting.

  • PTBoat

    This home test should be available. Many rural gay people do not have the ability to go to a free clinic, nor do they have the advantage of support groups or sympathetic medical practitioners, but with this test, they can continue with the initiative that they have already taken by purchasing it and work to improve their health. Medical professionals are not always the best source for assistance with a catastrophic diagnosis. This life saving test should not be made unavailable simply because some purchasers haven’t set up a support system for themselves. Diagnosis is the first, and most vital step and should be made as widely available as possible.

  • darkmoonman

    Folks, if they add an 800-number, no one is going to FORCE you to call it, but it would be there for someone who wanted/needed. Get off your high horses and stop trying to bully those who needed/wanted help when their results came back positive.

  • PTBoat

    Who’s bullying? The guy who wants to bully pharmaceutical companies from releasing the test because of his opinion and lack of preparation both against contraction and in the case of a positive diagnosis or the people who are calling for the release of the test so that everyone has an opportunity to get answers? There are lots of devastating diagnosises out there for which there isn’t a readily available counselor or 800 number.

  • Tony

    @PTBoat: WTF, “bully the pharmaceutical companies”? Are you even listening to yourself? I didn’t know we needed to be sensitive to their feelings. “Everyone get answers”? Do you live on the freaking moon? You don’t exactly need to live in West Hollywood to find a free testing center, and its not like every drug store is going to be stocking these things. Someone who is such a pussy that they can’t get tested in person is probably not the best candidate to find out their result at home. I think that when you groundlessly drop the author’s “lack of preparation against contraction”, you betray a sentiment that is common in a lot of these responses. These reactions have nothing to do with any real need for this type of test, and everything to do with your hatred of people whose result was positive.

  • PTBoat

    Your accusation of hatred is ridiculous. I have absolutely no hatred of someone who is positive at all. However, the author seems absolutely unprepared for anything and is blaming a home test for his own lack of preparation. It seems to me that he himself stigmatized the diagnosis and, now that he is himself positive, is projecting those feelings elsewhere.

    I don’t know how familiar you are with most of the country, but there are vast stretches of the US that are not accessible to large or even medium sized cities. This test is a huge milestone in prevention and treatment of the disease. Oh, and by the way, the test is already available to be ordered online.

  • Tony

    No hatred against someone who is positive, huh? So that’s why you just had to bring up that he “failed to prepare against contraction of the virus”, aka brought the virus on himself. I bet some of your best friends are black too, and they don’t mind it when you use the N word, do they? You’re so progressive and worldly!

    Where are these “vast stretches” that don’t have acccess to HIV tests? I looked up the most isolated places in the US and cross referenced them against HIVtest.org and i couldn’t find a place where testing wasn’t available. Even if they were, do you really think this test is primarily going to be used to combat the epidemic in Death Valley?

  • PTBoat

    Tony, the fact that I pointed out that the man failed to use readily available precautions doesn’t mean that I have hatred or animosity toward him. It’s a fact and is something that one doesn’t normally think about when dealing with someone who has a preventable disease, but his entire tirade shows that he has no intention of ever being responsible for himself and begins with attacks on others and, therefore, opens him up to judgement of his own actions. It’s the communities’ fault that he had trouble getting support; it’s the test maker’s fault that he wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis. Give me a break. He’s insulting all of those people who have not yet tested, but at the same time forgetting his own shortcomings.

    Try the entire Western US,except CA, many places in the South and the Midwest. Those places don’t have access to free HIV clinics, which is what we were talking about earlier. Many people in rural communities don’t want to have to out themselves to their doctors until they absolutely have to do.

  • PTBoat

    Oh, and fuck you. You have no idea how many friends I lost to AIDS, nor how many hours I spent caring for friends and volunteering. We know that condoms prevent HIV, and all of the horror that it can bring, but if one contracts it, one needs to take responsibility for oneself and get the treatment that will keep one healthy. Blaming test makers and everyone else around isn’t going to help.

  • Tony

    Oh yeah, the fact that he is pissed at this test totally must show he has no intention of ever taking responsibility,, but you can’t be biased because you’ve “lost friends and cared”! Yes! Now, quick, don’t let
    me down, tell me that your “cousin is gay, but you only bash f****s”! You’re a hero PTBoat!

  • Josh

    “Hell, in his despair, he might even remove a condom behind your back.”

    This guy’s a fucking psycho.

  • Mitch

    @Josh: Yes, he would be. Thats also the exact type of person I suspect infected me. I wasn’t in the habit of barebacking, and HIV remains the only STD I’ve ever been diagnosed with. There’s a lot of smugness on this site, and any discussion of HIV is always filled with the sort of blame that general society would never engage in. For a website that caters to people who think they’re “victims of bullycide”, that is hypocritical, and all of you should be ashamed of yourselves.

    A lot of Queerty readers are HIV positive. Some of them know it, some of them don’t. It is wrong to malign me or others for their status based on presumptions of behavior which are frequently not accurate. I see a lot of fallacious reasoning, and a lot of attacks on me that are pretty simplistic demonizations. That’s really too bad. The gay community in general, and this site in particular, do a disservice to people who are positive. Regardless of the tone I took, I made some salient points about this test that any rational person should agree with. What I got were statements like “he’s a psycho” or people saying I didn’t properly prepare against the virus. This distracts from the reality that psychos and “poor preparation” are issues that all of you face to some extent or other.

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