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At-Home Tests Offer Convenience, But are they Reliable?

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SACRAMENTO-

A long list of tests that were once only offered at a doctor’s office are now lining store shelves.

High cholesterol, urinary tract infections, blood in the stool and blood clotting function are a few of the diagnostic kits for sale.

So, do they work? Our web producer put a pregnancy test for the dollar store to the test. She’s more than a little pregnant, and the test came back positive.

It appears a store-bought breathalyzer worked, too.

But how do those results match up with the results from professionals?

“The test is just a piece of the puzzle. It doesn’t tell the whole thing, it’s just a piece of the information. Sometimes that information can point you in the right direction, and sometimes it’s a red herring,” said Dr. Davis Liu with Kaiser Permanente.

He said the at-home AIDS test that is now available is a good example of the potential for confusion. They offer convenience and privacy, but if the person doesn’t understand how to read the results, it could be useless.

“The downside of HIV testing at home is that some patients don’t appreciate the fact that it may take 3 months before the test actually become positive. So if you have exposure to someone you were intimate with the night before and you get tested and you test negative, it may be a false negative,” said Dr. Liu.

He said instead, doctors should work on their approachability.

“The question we need to address is the home testing environment is happening because people are fearful to ask questions and if we have that relationship with a doctor that you trust over time, then that fear becomes less,” said Dr. Liu.

Sonseeahray Tonsall contributed to this report.