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The 411 of Home-Testing
When you mention home-based HIV-testing as a possibility, there are a number of reactions. First, to clarify, we are talking about self-administered, home-based testing, as opposed to the home-sample collection kits that are currently available, cost about $50, take up to 2 weeks to get results via telephone. We are talking about rapid tests that test for anti-bodies as in the video on our homepage, currently not-FDA approved for home-purchase although widely used in clinics throughout the country. The FDA-approval has little to do with the efficacy of the test, and everything to do with whether we as a society are responsible enough to use such a product.
There are legitimate concerns, including:
What if someone gets a positive at home and takes his/her life? Our response:
- There is no research to support that this would happen.
- Good marketing materials on the packaging about resources could address this, as could social networking.
- FDA approves medications that kill people who don't want to die. These tests will not cause death.
Someone could get false results.
- At the same rate as in clinics. Again, education, social networking and marketing could address this.
- At worst, having a few false results while increasing the collective HIV-status knowledge will help move us towards greater community awareness.
- Selling the tests in pairs could let the person repeat the test.
People need counseling.
- People for sure need education. "Mandatory counseling" is never true counseling.
- Counseling can be done within the context of a more educated compassionate community.
- Current counselors receive a 3-day training, and many have reported that it could be done in a few hours. This kind of training is not consistent with the kind of training needed for detection of depression, suicide, etc. It is indicative of a passing of information that could be done in other and more efficient ways.
- Many people (repeat testers, people in relation with people that are positive, women using home-pregnancy tests, people who work in HIV and medical services) do not need the counseling each time.
Public health data could not be collected, or people might not link to care
- These are already issues in the current system. Data that is collected is self-reported and therefore not always reliable, nor informative at this point. Anonymous testing also skews data. We theorize that if people do testing with family and friends, linkage to care could actually go up.
The bottom line is the status quo is not getting it done, and it costs well-over $60 to administer a test that could cost between $8 and $12 in the current system. People are not empowered by limiting options, but giving options.
More information about whether we as a society are ready for home-based testing can be found here.