A panel of experts took a look at the first rapid over-the-counter HIV test this week and they came away impressed by what they saw. The test would allow Americans to give themselves a test for the HIV virus that causes AIDS. Making the test more readily available to the public may encourage people to immediately know their status and also to pick safer sex partners.
In a unanimous vote on the test, called OraQuick, 17 members of the Food and Drug Administration advisory panel said they believe the benefits of the home test greatly outweigh any risks that have been observed so far. Although the test will not be quite as accurate as professionally administered tests, it is still quite a useful tool for consumers. The test will require the user to get a mouth swab and should produce results in about twenty minutes.
The company behind OraQuick is OraSure, based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which already has sold several versions of the home test in the past to doctors. The government has already approved other H.I.V home tests, but these required blood samples and had to be sent to a laboratory—not nearly as convenient as OraQuick.
OraSure is hopeful that the product will be on the market this year, but the F.D.A has still not made its decision whether to approve. Statistics show that 1.1 million people are infected with HIV and, unfortunately, more than 230,000 don’t know it, according to OraSure. They hope that placing such a convenient method of testing on the market will reduce risky behavior by those infected with the virus and lead to a decrease in the numbers.