Drugstore HIV test: Is it for everyone?by Kristen Mucci-Mosier
More than 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and about 20 percent of them don't know they're infected.
Today is National HIV Testing Day, as organized by the National Association of People with AIDS with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and AIDS.gov. The goal is to encourage people to know their status so, if diagnosed with HIV, they can get treatment to live longer, healthier lives.
As part of routine health care, the CDC recommends that anyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once. Those at high risk-such as gay and bisexual men, injection drug users and people with multiple sex partners-are encouraged to get tested once a year or more.
What's the latest in testing? Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended approval of the first at-home HIV test. The test, known as Oraquick, is completed by swabbing the outer gums. It shows results in 20 minutes. The company reports that results were accurate 93 percent of the time during product testing. Many have expressed concerned over the mental health aspects of learning of HIV-positive results alone at home. This includes worries over the person seeking proper treatment and coping with the emotional repercussions of such a diagnosis.
Another new effort is drugstore testing for HIV. The CDC has made these tests available at seven sites around the country and plans to add 17 more pharmacies and in-store clinics in cities and rural regions, the Associated Press reported. Similar to the at-home version, the test involves swabbing the mouth and provides preliminary results in 20 minutes.
According to reports, customers with positive results will be referred for more in-depth testing and counseling and treatment if necessary.
Though it is clear that more people need to be tested for HIV to reduce complications from the virus and spreading of the disease, some wonder if the lack of on-site counseling and delay in getting counseling could create problems. Is one's home or drugstore the appropriate place to get an initial diagnosis of such a serious condition? The CDC plans to review the results of this program next summer. Till then, the jury is out.