Health: Test Yourself!
On Tuesday, May 15th, the FDA unanimously voted that the benefits of OraQuick ® In-Home H.I.V. home tests outweighed the potential risks. This vote is the first major step towards testing for HIV at home.
Recently published research on HIV transmission rates from persons living with HIV who are aware and unaware of their infection was used to bolster the argument for the prevention benefits of home HIV testing.
Assuming 1 million individuals tested with the OraQuick ® In-Home HIV Test, OraSure estimates that 9,087 HIV positive individuals would be identified and that more than 700 onward transmissions would be prevented annually. These prevented infections would be in addition to those averted through current testing and intervention efforts.
OraQuick ® Advanced tests currently available in the professional market, have been used for many years, providing rapid results within 20 minutes through a simple mouth swab.
The approval was the second in less than a week regarding HIV, as last Thursday a similar panel of drug experts endorsed the HIV daily pill Truvada for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). A pill taken daily by HIV-Negative individuals to prevent infection.
One of the main concerns regarding home testing for HIV ‘insiders’ is the lack of support and counseling for those that may test positive.
One argument is that those who test positive may harm themselves or act irrationally in other ways based on the diagnosis. The opposing argument is that with ART (daily medications) an HIV diagnosis does not have the same impact as it did prior to effective treatment.
Another concern is accuracy, saliva-based tests do not appear to be as reliable as those that use blood samples.
A final concern is the potential costs, although no absolute costs have been released, the current costs for the professional version of the oral swab test is $17.50, OraSure states that the costs for the home tests will be less than $60 but I anticipate that they will be significantly more than the $17.50 needed to purchase a professional test. To quote OraSure, “the in-home kit requires more extensive labeling and has to cover the costs of the customer call center”.
I am of the opinion that making HIV tests available broadly and privately is a good thing and that allowing individuals to test themselves at home, at a party or through a private event is extremely valuable, especially when considering the hesitance of some to get tested as a result of name-based reporting and other privacy / stigma concerns based on what can (and often does) happen when an individual tests positive for HIV.
I would be more than happy to test myself and would be happy to have a few tests available for partners, what about you?