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Youth AIDS
advocate will testify on rapid home HIV testing

Youth AIDS
advocate will testify on rapid home HIV testing

Tom Donohue, executive director of the State College, Pa.-based youth AIDS organization Who's Positive, is scheduled to speak before the Food and Drug Administration next week when the agency holds hearings on possibly approving the OraQuick rapid HIV antibody test for home use. Some AIDS advocates oppose approving the kit for home use because of fears that because there is no counseling component, those who test positive may become distraught and possibly even attempt suicide. Donohue, however, plans to speak in support of home testing.

"After consulting with youth from all over the United States, the majority of those surveyed say that this is a great thing," Donohue says in a press release. "It breaks barriers which prevent young people from getting tested. It will allow [people in] smaller rural communities who do not have access to quick reliable testing to go out to their local drug store and get tested in the convenience of their own home and get the results back in 20 minutes. I believe this will significantly reduce the number of young people who are unaware they are HIV-positive, ultimately resulting in prevention of more infections."

Donohue will speak before the FDA's Blood Products Advisory Committee at its meeting on November 3 in Gaithersburg, Md. That panel will advise the full FDA on whether to grant test-maker OraSure Technologies permission to market the test for at-home use. The oral-swab test, which provides results in about 20 minutes, is currently available only at doctors' offices, AIDS clinics, and through some AIDS service organizations conducting street-level testing programs.

OraSure officials have said they will include information on the test package about counseling options, including referrals to a 24-hour counseling center, a hotline number, Internet support, and printed material if the test is approved for over-the-counter sales.

Donohue created Who's Positive after he was diagnosed with HIV infection in October 2003 at age 23. The organization aims to educate young people about HIV and how to protect themselves against the virus as well as to provide insight into the lives of HIV-positive youth nationwide. For more information go online to www.whospositive.org. (Advocate.com)

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