Home rapid HIV test kits face opposition
May 14 2004 12:00 AM ET
The laboratory industry and organizations that provide HIV counseling are leading the fight against the possible sale of OraQuick rapid HIV antibody tests over the counter, The [Allentown, Pa.] Morning Call reports. Mike Gausling, CEO of test maker OraSure Technologies, says the company wants to make its test, which can provide results in about 20 minutes, available over-the-counter. Counselors and lab companies oppose the move.
Lab officials say nonprofessionals are unqualified to administer the tests, arguing that "a false positive or a false negative could have devastating results for the patients, his or her family, and, potentially, society," according to a letter sent by a lobbying group to U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson. Counselors say those taking the tests at home will not receive adequate preparation to handle their test results should they learn they are infected with HIV, or will not be instructed on safer-sex practices if their tests come back negative.
However, some AIDS advocates, who say rapid at-home testing could significantly decrease the number of people unaware they're infected with HIV, suggest the opposing groups are worried about losing money due to decreased demand for laboratory work and counseling services. "You have to consider the potential conflict of interest when you interpret their concerns," Bernard Branson, an AIDS specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Morning Call. The CDC has hired an independent contract to assess public interest in at-home rapid HIV testing and to gauge how the public would use the test before the agency will make a decision on recommending at-home use of the OraQuick tests.
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