For the first time, consumers can now buy an HIV test at a drug store and find out their HIV status in less than half an hour.
It’s not without controversy.
While most experts are thrilled that this will expand access to HIV testing, many are cautious saying the price tag is too steep for those who need it most.
For about $40 you can now walk into your neighborhood drug store and buy an over-the-counter HIV test to use in the privacy of your home.
Douglas Michels is the president of the company that makes the Ora-quick in-home HIV test.
He said it goes a long way in eliminating barriers to testing for the virus that leads to AIDS.
Results from the oral swab test are available within 20 minutes.
“This test is accessible, it’s convenient, it’s easy to use and you can test confidentially,” he said.
Outside experts agree expanding access to a rapid HIV test can only help the estimated 240,000 people who don’t know they’re HIV positive.
The sticking point is that$ 40 price tag.
Some said it’s too high for the poor, who are disproportionately affected by AIDS.
But not everyone is as supportive.
“I don’t think this is a game changer,” Dr. David Paltiel said, Yale School of Public Health. “I don’t think it’s realistic to think that this test, particularly priced at $40 at the retail, is going to do a whole lot to contain this epidemic.”
The test looks for HIV antibodies in the body, not the virus itself.
Doctors said it’s important to see a doctor with any positive results for confirmation.
Also, it does not give license to have risky sex and it will not help the morning after a night of unprotected sex.
“This test is going to be an accurate portrayal of your HIV infection status 6 to 8 weeks ago, not what happened last night,” Dr. Paltiel said.
But it might give those who are reluctant to go to the doctor a way to check their HIV status at home.
After all, it is the same screening tool used in doctors’ offices for about 10 years.