HIV testing catches up with technology with new home kit

HIV — the human immunodeficiency virus — was a death sentence in the ’80s and ’90s, but advances in medicine give people hope. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been working to make testing for the virus more available and discreet.

The FDA approved the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test Tuesday, giving those most at risk, who many never get tested elsewhere, an opportunity to test themselves discreetly at home. The kits should be available by October in more than 30,000 stores and online.

The process is simple: swab gums, place swab in vial, wait 20 to 40 minutes, check results. Much like a pregnancy test, one line equals negative and two lines equal positive.

One of the main problems with the spread of a virus that is preventable is the lack of knowledge about HIV. Manufacturer OraSure Technology is creating a customer support hotline, available 24/7 starting July 9, to provide information about HIV, help customers understand the procedure, guide callers after receiving results and offer referrals.

The FDA also approved an in-home test kit in 1996, but the results had to be mailed to a lab for processing. These kits still exist with a price tag of around $50 and samples still have to be mailed to a lab, but overnight shipping is included in the purchase and results are available in 24 hours.

The CDC, along with Walgreens, is about to launch a program to deliver free HIV tests to a limited number of pharmacies and clinics across the country. Select pharmacies at Walgreens in Washington D.C., Chicago, Ill., and Lithonia, Ga. are offering free tests as a trial run.

Patients will be able to discreetly request the test with forms similar in size and shape of business cards. Of the 1.2 million Americans infected, one in five is unaware of the infection and one in three is diagnosed so late that the patient develops acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Many people go untested because of the stigma of the illness and the fear of getting a positive result. Hopefully, these two new options will help dismiss such ideas and get more citizens involved and aware.

@ Newsday — Long Island, N.Y.

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