There’s a new tool to aid in the detection of HIV.
Consumers can now purchase the OraQuick In-Home HIV test from pharmacies and mass retailers around the country.
The test, produced by OraSure Technologies, Inc., provides people with the option of screening for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) in the privacy of their own homes.
“There’s still a significant need for more testing options to be made available to the public,” said Douglas Michels, CEO of OraSure Technologies.
“Despite all the good work that has been done over the years to provide HIV testing, there are still about 20 percent of individuals that are unaware that they have it. To the extent that we can identify people who are infected, we believe that we can reduce forward transmission of HIV.”
The test uses saliva by way of a mouth swab to detect antibodies for HIV-1 and HIV-2. Results are available in 20 minutes. Consumers who take the test will have access to a 24-hour, seven days a week call center where they can get their questions answered, understand how to interpret their results, and be referred to HIV/AIDS health care professionals for follow-up testing.
The in home test is an over-the-counter version of OraQuick ADVANCE, an oral swab rapid HIV test used by doctors, hospitals, clinics and other trained professionals.
“I think it’s important to understand that we are not trying to position this product as a replacement for testing done in public health clinics and doctors offices. This is really an additional tool that people can access to learn their HIV status,” Michels added.
Gary Bell, executive director of BEBASHI, a provider of HIV/AIDS education and services for the African-American community, regards the new product as a nice tool to have in an overall arsenal. However, he says there are pros and cons.
“On the pro side, it gives people some control over the process,” Bell said, noting that it might be attractive to people who are not comfortable with walking into a clinic or a doctor’s office to be tested.
“On the con side, you don’t get the counseling that one would normally get — particularly if you went to an organization like BEBASHI or a medical clinic. I know in medical clinics, one doesn’t always get a whole lot of counseling, depending on where you go, however you do have a living being standing in front of you, that you can at least try to engage and ask some questions,” he said.
“It’s really not for everyone, but I do think it’s an important step forward in fighting this dreaded disease.”
A recent editorial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine says the home-based test is not likely to lower the barriers of care or reduce HIV transmission.
The editorial, co-authored by Dr. David Paltiel of Yale, said routine testing in doctors’ offices and clinics is the best way to identify people who don’t know they are infected with HIV.
The authors said with its relatively high cost, the test is likely to attract affluent persons at low risk for infection, persons with very recent high-risk exposures, or those with diagnosed HIV seeking to find out if treatment has reversed the production of antibodies for HIV. The authors recommend that physicians counsel their patients about the use, misuse, and anticipated benefits of home HIV testing.
The new testing option comes at a time when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that African Americans account for 44 percent of new HIV infections in the country. According to the CDC, there are about 1.2 million people living with HIV.
The test will retail for $39 and will be carried at 30,000 retailers across the country including CVS, Rite Aid and online via www.oraquick.com.