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by Sucharu Chris Prakash, MD -
The HIV Problem
About 1.2 million people in the U.S.are infected with HIV, and an estimated 20% of those infected are unaware that they are HIV-positive (according to the CDC). So that is 200,000 people who have HIV, and may unknowingly infect other people.
The FDA recently approved the first “at-home” test, which you can buy over-the-counter, and perform the test with your saliva, in the privacy of your home. This test could potentially inform thousands of Americans about their HIV status. This In-Home HIV Test can detect antibodies of the virus from the saliva sample. It can provide results in half an hour.
The Big Hope
Public-health experts hope that this test will help identify many of the estimated 200,000 people who are infected but are yet undiagnosed. The test is convenient, is done in the privacy of your home and is confidential. So the hope is that once diagnosed, these patients can receive appropriate treatment for themselves and also reduce their contagiousness, thereby helping control the epidemic.
Will it really help?
A lot of people with HIV infection do not seek medical help at all. Nationwide, about 80 percent of the 1 million Americans diagnosed with HIV go to the doctor. The remaining 20 percent, or another 200,000 people, are diagnosed but have never seen a nurse, doctor, or social worker to help them deal with the disease.
The reasons for avoidance of medical care are many. HIV (or AIDS) still has a social stigma attached to it, and some people do not want to deal with that. Many patients distrust the medical system, or wish to be left alone because they are feeling well. The cost of care and medications is also a concern for some.
This group of patients (who do not seek medical care), will likely not benefit from this new home test. However, it may motivate some of them to seek medical help, and that really is the hope that made the FDA approve this test.
The test kit is made by “OraSure Technologies” and will be available in October. Although no price has been set, it is expected to be around $60.
This information is strictly an opinion of Dr Prakash, and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Dr Chris Prakash is a contributing columnist, and author of eParisExtra’s “The Doctor is In” column. He is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology Paris. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Oncology and Hematology. He lives in Paris, TX with his wife and two children, and can be reached at 9037850031, or Sucharu.email@example.com