|HIV/AIDS testing and changing sexual habits|
Published: Jul 21, 2012
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first over-the-counter HIV test, which will allow Americans to check themselves for the virus that causes AIDS in the privacy of their homes.
The OraQuick test detects the presence of HIV in saliva collected using mouth swabs. The test has been designed to return results within 20 to 40 minutes.
The Associated Press reported that a trial conducted by Orasure, the company responsible for the test kits, showed the home test correctly detected HIV in those carrying the virus 92 percent of the time.
Orasure has sold a version of OraQuick to healthcare practitioners since 2002 and when used by professionals the test is shown to accurately identify carriers and non-carriers 99 percent of the time, according to the company.
Orasure plans to launch the test in October, selling it through retailers.
Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez told The Nassau Guardian the at-home HIV test could be incorporated into the national HIV/AIDS program depending on how affordable it is.
The company has not yet set a price for the test kit. It expects the consumer version to cost less than $60, but more than the one for health professionals, which costs about $17.50.
Once the test is affordable, and it is pushed through public education campaigns, it will likely change public sexual behavior. People considering beginning new sexual relationships could draw on the resource to determine if they should proceed.
The Bahamas has the highest HIV adult prevalence rate in the Caribbean at 3.1 percent. Additional tools to help reduce this rate are needed. The national HIV/AIDS program has worked aggressively over the years to educate Bahamians on safe sexual practices and the importance of testing. This new tool empowers people to more easily know their status and that of their partners before becoming sexually involved.
Public attitudes towards HIV/AIDS testing are changing. Dr. Gomez, the former director of the National HIV/AIDS Program, noted that almost 1,000 people came out for rapid HIV testing in Rawson Square recently.
With the emergence of treatments such as antiretroviral therapy, more people are not considering testing positive for HIV as an automatic death sentence.
If the decision is made to incorporate the at-home test into the official HIV/AIDS program the government may consider some subsidy to lessen its cost.