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An HIV test that can be used at home and promises results in 20 minutes could help more people get treated sooner but raises concerns about how well patients could cope with the test findings on their own, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel heard on Thursday in Gaithersburg, Md. Testing kits that allow consumers to mail a blood sample to a laboratory for results have been approved in the past, but advocates said allowing people to find out their HIV status at home makes testing easier, faster, and more private.
"A number of people don't get tested because they are concerned about privacy," Orasure Technology Inc. chief executive Douglas Michels told Reuters at the Food and Drug Administration panel meeting. The company is considering seeking FDA approval for a home version of its OraQuick test, which is already marketed to doctors and other health care providers.
No company has sought U.S. permission to sell such products over the counter, but the FDA is asking for the panelists' advice as it weighs how to review future proposals. Agency officials said there were several concerns about at-home HIV tests, including how people would cope with their results, especially those younger than 18. "Concerns have been expressed over the years about the psychological effects of receiving a positive HIV test result without the benefit of counseling. The issue that has come up repeatedly is suicidal tendencies," said Elliot Cowan, head of product reviews for the FDA's Division of Emerging and Transfusion Transmitted Diseases.
The FDA has been grappling with possible home-use HIV tests since 1986, when manufacturers first expressed interest in selling mail-in kits, which have since been approved for HIV and hepatitis C. OraQuick would allow consumers to insert a swab of saliva into a small bottle, providing the results while the patient waits at home. Like home pregnancy tests, various colored lines appear on a small window depending on whether the virus was detected. (Reuters)