The United States’s Food and Drug Administration has approved a kit that will allow people to learn in the privacy of their own homes whether they are infected or not.
The kit, OraQuick, will work much like a pregnancy test with similar indicators. The test procedure involves taking an oral fluid sample collected by swabbing the upper and lower gums inside a person’s mouth, placing the sample into the kit’s developer vial and then waiting for the result which will take about 20 to 40 minutes. It is expected to be available by October in the United States.
We think this is a positive step forward. While some would think maybe that this could result in home suicides, we think any test that can allow people to know their status quickly is a good thing. The authorities have said that if one tests positive it does not mean that they definitely are positive. It means that they should go and have a test done in a medical setting. The same thing with people who test positive and may have been exposed in the 3 months before the test.
Because the test sensitivity for OraQuick is 92% a false negative can be expected for every 12 results for HIV positive individuals.
We think that the fact people will be able to do this in private will do a world of good for the fight against HIV/AIDS. The drawback is that because there is no immediate counselling available it could expose people to altered mind-states.
It is a positive development, but it comes with a serious warning sign.