August 22, 2012
The OraQuick rapid HIV test soon will be available over-the-counter, and health professionals are discussing its potential impact.
Joan Duggan, a physician at the University of Toledo Medical Center, said, "This test is a two-edged sword. It's a great thing to have available, but we have to be careful. There's a huge potential for misuse." She added, however, "If we want to end this epidemic, people need to know their HIV status and use the appropriate measures to stop transmission." According to CDC, about one in five infected people do not realize they have HIV.
Jerry Kerr, HIV prevention coordinator for the Lucas County Department of Health, explained that some people do not want to talk about the risks they have been taking or "don't want it written down anywhere they even went for an HIV test." Although health privacy laws protect patients, some people fear that insurance companies or employers could obtain their test results.
Tyler Andrew TerMeer, director of the Ohio AIDS Coalition, imagines that sex workers would prefer the privacy of an in-home test. He added that others may "worry their partner would find out and become violent if they walked into a clinic."
Duggan and others are concerned that those using OraQuick at home will not understand the "window period" when the body, although infected, has not made enough HIV antibodies to produce a positive test result.
TerMeer added, "The challenge is we don't have any mechanism in place for knowing they've tested positive and getting them into early care and treatment."
Kerr thinks more people will seek help at free test sites once they see the test retailing for up to $60. "It's going to create more awareness about HIV, and that's always a good thing," he said.