HIV Oral Point of Care Test

Helping Hand Logo

HIV (human immunodeficiency (ih MEW no dee FISH encee) virus) is a virus that causes a number of different health problems including AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). The HIV virus is passed from person to person in certain ways:

  • Sexual contact; oral, vaginal or anal.
  • Contact with blood from an infected person (sharing needles, blood transfusion, needle stick injury to a health care worker).
  • From mother to infant.

It takes many months and even years for the HIV virus to cause enough harm to the body to result in illness or disease, so an HIV infected person may not look sick. 

The best way for doctors to find out if a person has HIV is to look for HIV antibodies (AN te bod ees). Antibodies are made by the body as soon as the person is infected with HIV. The HIV virus attacks many cells in the body, especially the cells of the immune system. The virus damages the T-4 cells that help the immune system fight off disease. When the immune system is badly damaged, people with HIV can be infected by many different and unusual germs. These unusual infections are what we call AIDS.

The Oral Point of Care test

Swabbing the inside of the mouth

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adolescents between the ages of 13 and 19 be tested for HIV every year.

The Oral Point of Care test checks for HIV antibodies. This test is free. The test is done by swabbing the inside of the patient’s mouth with a stick that looks like a cotton swab (Picture 1). It does not hurt. The results are available in 20 minutes or less. The test is offered to all patients over the age of 13 who come into the Emergency Department.

If the Test is Positive

If the test is positive, you will be given your results and a list of area resources. Blood work will also be done to confirm the results from the Oral Point of Care Test, but these results will not be available right away. All positive test results will be referred to the Family AIDS Clinic and Education Services (FACES) Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The FACES staff has over 20 years’ experience working with HIV and provide many services to HIV positive patients. Appointments include time with a nurse, social worker, doctor, dietician and patient advocate.

You will receive a phone call from staff within 48 hours to confirm your visit and set up a time for you to have lab work done.

How HIV Is Spread

HIV can only live inside the body. It can only be spread through INTIMATE CONTACT between an infected person and an uninfected person. HIV is passed to another person only when blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breastmilk that contains HIV gets into that person's body.

Examples of intimate contact and ways of spreading the virus are:

  • Through contact with an infected person's blood. (getting tattoos, sharing dirty needles, razors or toothbrushes; transfusions of infected blood).
  • By having sexual contact (contact with semen or vaginal secretions): man-to-man, woman-to-man or woman-to-woman with a person infected with HIV. This includes vaginal, oral and anal sex; sexual abuse, rape and prostitution.
  • From an infected mother to her baby through the placenta during pregnancy, during delivery (vaginal and C-section) or in the breastmilk to her baby.

How HIV Is Not Spread

The HIV virus is NOT spread through "casual contact." Some ways HIV/AIDS is NOT spread are:

  • Normal day-to-day contact like shaking hands, being in the same room or hugging.
  • Sharing plates, cups or silverware with someone who is HIV positive.
  • Using a phone or toilet seat after someone who is HIV positive.
  • Sharing a swimming pool with someone who is HIV positive.

So far no other family members of HIV infected children have gotten the virus from casual contact.

Signs of HIV Infection

Some of the more common health problems in HIV positive individuals are:

  • Infections that keep coming back, do not go away or are more severe than in others
  • Swollen glands in more than one area (neck, armpits, groin)
  • White patches in the mouth, on the tongue or in the throat (thrush) that don’t go away
  • Repeated fevers
  • Diarrhea (3 or more loose stools per day) that continues for several weeks
  • Repeated ear infections (more than 8 in a year)
  • Certain kinds of tumors or cancers

For More Information

  • If you would like more information about HIV, you may call the CDC National AIDS Hotline at 1-800-342-2437. They are open 24 hours a day.
  • If you have any questions, please call the Nationwide Children's Hospital Family AIDS Clinic and Education Services (FACES) Program at (614) 722-6060.
    • HIV testing is FREE, PAINLESS, AND FAST at either the outpatient clinic or at various other locations in the community.
    • Testing is done daily at Nationwide Children's Hospital 3rd floor, OCC Building, for teens (ages 13-24) and adults as well.
    • Tests are confidential and you do not need an appointment.
    • Counselors are available.

HIV Oral Point of Care Test (PDF)

HH-III-128 6/14 Copyright 2014, Nationwide Children's Hospital