I have just read an interesting article stating that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering approving the first over-the-counter HIV test that would allow people to test themselves for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) at home, quickly and easily without requiring any medical supervision. It has been possible for Americans to purchase home HIV test kits through mail order for a number of years, but these kits have not received FDA approval, although it looks like this might be about to change.

I am very excited about this news, because as a barebacker, I understand the importance of knowing my HIV status and being able to advise potential partners of my HIV status as accurately as possible. Knowing your HIV status is an important part of being able to effectively sero-sort; the process of only having sex with partners who have the same HIV status as yourself, whether it be HIV-negative with HIV-negative partners or HIV-positive with HIV-positive partners. It’s important to remember that if someone says that he is HIV-negative (even when he thinks he may be), it’s possible that he may not be for a number of reasons and this is one of the risks involved with barebacking.

There are still concerns about the accuracy of the test, which uses a mouth swab that returns results in approximately twenty minutes. In a trial conducted by the manufacturer OraSure Technologies Inc, the test correctly detected HIV in those carrying the virus 93 percent of the time. It’s important to understand the window period that exists with those newly infected with HIV, because the window period can impact on the accuracy of HIV testing. The FDA is going to need to decide whether the risk of the false results outweighs the benefits of the accurate results as part of the approval process.

The FDA reviewers said that the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test could play a significant role in slowing the spread of HIV. This is because more people would have access to testing themselves for the virus in the comfort and privacy of their own home and they could then use the test results when they discuss their HIV status with other people. It’s important to note that this test has not yet received approval, but it’s hoped that approval will be given sometime in the near future.

The article also states that public health experts estimate that one-fifth, or about 240,000 of the 1.2 million HIV carriers in the United States are not aware that they are infected with the virus. This is why it’s important for as many people as possible to test themselves for HIV on a regular basis. I think that a concern for the FDA will be that they cannot monitor HIV cases with home HIV testing (which are usually reported as a mandatory requirement in most states), but hopefully they will see that it’s important for individuals to have the tools to be able to check their HIV status.

References:

  1. Quick HIV home test on the way – The Herald Sun
    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/quick-hiv-home-test-on-the-way/story-fn7x8me2-1226353861723
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