Home Tests Won't Stop Aids
Sepkowitz, Kent, Newsweek
Byline: Kent Sepkowitz
If people still refuse treatment.
Earlier this month the FDA approved the first rapid home test for the diagnosis of HIV. Soon a person will be able to buy a kit, swipe an applicator across his gums, wait half an hour, and get the potentially life-altering result in the quiet of his own home.
Public-health experts hope that the convenience and confidentiality of the test will help control the HIV epidemic by identifying many of the estimated 200,000 infected but undiagnosed Americans. Once diagnosed, a patient can receive antiviral treatments that both improve his health and--critical to the control of the epidemic--reduce his contagiousness.
Enthusiasts of the test compare it to the home test for pregnancy, which became available over the counter in the late 1970s. Indeed the similarities are many: the home pregnancy test provides a result that often is emotionally complex. It also allows a woman to get a diagnosis quickly, cheaply, and away from the possibly disapproving gaze of her doctor.
But the similarities stop there. A positive pregnancy test often is often welcomed, whereas a positive HIV result never will be. The largest difference, though, is this: just about all pregnant women find their way to a medical practitioner within months of a positive test. For people with HIV, however, the rate of entry into health care is disappointing. …