Magazine article Newsweek

Testing Yourself for HIV; a New Product Promises Sound Results - at Home

Magazine article Newsweek

Testing Yourself for HIV; a New Product Promises Sound Results - at Home

Article excerpt

HERE'S A SOBERING THOUGHT: OF the nearly 1 million Americans now carrying the AIDS virus, as many as half may not know they're infected. Because many are reluctant to seek testing at clinics, they not only miss out on life-extending medical care but unwittingly transmit HIV to others. You wouldn't expect a $40 gizmo to solve such a problem, but last week the Food and Drug Administration approved a product that could help. It's an HIV test you can take in complete privacy--at home. The new blood test, to be marketed by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson under the brand name Confide, will go on sale in Texas and Florida next month and should reach the rest of the country early next year.

Unlike a home pregnancy test, Confide won't yield instant results. But it will enable consumers to deal anonymously with a clinical laboratory. Anyone opening the package will find a pinprick device, a coded piece of blotter paper and a mailer. The instructions direct the user to place three drops of blood on the paper, tear off a tab with a matching code number, and drop the sample in the mail. Getting the results involves calling a toll-free number and punching in your code. If the result is negative, a recorded message says so. But anyone with a confirmed positive result gets a trained counselor on the line, ready to answer questions and provide information on treatment and social support.

Weighing risks: A handful of critics (primarily clinic operators) have fought for years to keep home tests off the market; they say news of an HIV infection is too potentially devastating to dole out over the phone. …

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