Magazine article Drug Topics

In-Pharmacy, At-Home HIV Tests Make Screenings More Accessible

Magazine article Drug Topics

In-Pharmacy, At-Home HIV Tests Make Screenings More Accessible

Article excerpt

Accessibility remains at the top of the healthcare wish list, and that applies to preventive screenings. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA have taken steps toward facilitating the availability of HTV testing, making both pharmacy - based and in-home screening an option for patients.

CDC has initiated a two-year pilot program to train pharmacists and retail clinician staff to deliver confidential rapid HIV testing. The pilot, which will test oral fluid using the OraQuick Advance Rapid HIV1/2 Antibody Test from OraSure Technologies, will take place in 24 rural and urban sites with a high prevalence of HIV or significant, unmet HTV testing needs.

Paul Weidle, PharmD, MPH, research support officer, Epidemiology Branch, Division of fflV/AIDS Prevention, The National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at CDC, said that the pilot will create a toolkit for retailers, instructing them in delivery of the tests and helping them unk those who are diagnosed with HTV to appropriate medical care, treatment, and counseling.

The rationale for in-pharmacy testing addresses the 200,000 people who are unaware they have the HIV infection. It is critical to decrease new HIV infections by identifying those who are infected. We can accomplish this by bringing testing to people," he said. In the United States, 1.1 million people live with the infection, according to the CDC.

Community pharmacies offer accessibility and convenience to many individuals, and for some people, pharmacies may be less stigmatizing than conventional HIV testing sites, Weidle said. At present, local and state health departments, community health clinics, physician offices, and hospitals serve as testing sites.

The CDC said one-third of those with HIV were diagnosed so late in the course of their infection that they developed AIDS within one year.

Bringing it home

Last July, EDA approved the first over-thecounter, home-use, rapid HIV test, known as OraQuick In-Home HIV Test (OraSure Technologies). The simple screening process requires users to collect an oral fluid sample by swabbing the upper and lower gums and placing the sample in a developer vial. Results are available in 20 to 40 minutes. Pharmacies, grocery stores, and online retailers are expected to offer the product starting this month.

An earlier OTC test required individuals to prick their fingers and mail a drop of dried blood to a lab. "In-home and pharmacy testing is a 180-degree turn from what we have been doing with HIV testing" said Christopher Holtzer, PharmD, manager of clinical services for RamseH a pharmacy benefit management company with independently owned pharmacy services that focus on public health issues. …

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