Ethical Questions Surround New At-Home HIV Test

Thursday, May 17, 2012

This week an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously to recommend the approval of the first-ever rapid, over-the-counter, completely in-home HIV test. Though the FDA has approved other HIV test kits designed for at-home use in the past, those tests require a blood sample that must be sent in to a laboratory for development. The newly considered test kit — called the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test — simply requires a mouth swab and a 20-minute wait for results.

It’s estimated that approximately one-fifth of the 1.2 million HIV carriers in the United States are unaware of their infection, and advocates of OraQuick say the test would provide a new and powerful attack against the American HIV epidemic.

Art Caplan, a regular guest on The Takeaway, discusses whether this test kit is a game-changer in the fight against HIV/AIDS and whether the kit’s benefits outweigh the ethical holes facing home-testing. Caplan is a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.


Dr. Art Caplan

Produced by:

Marc Kilstein

Comments [2]

edward from New York City

I do HIV testing and counseling for a living. I agree that counseling is a necessary part of testing, and that follow-up tests are crucial for positive results, but the answer is not to wag a finger at the patient. Harm Reduction and Motivational Interviewing methods are proven to be more effective than lectures. People turn off to lectures and feel judged. It's best to provide unbiased information, and try to help the patient come to his or her own decision to adopt more healthy behaviors. Also, we're finding that treatment is prevention. An HIV positive patient on an effective treatment regimen is less likely to transmit HIV. Taking a test at home would not provide a connection to care and the support one needs to find and adhere to a treatment regimen.

May. 17 2012 08:50 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The media is telling us that sex is OK for people who are not married, and that same sex activity is OK, that one needs to experiment. I can imagine a high school boy experimenting with sex, and testing himself at home, and finding that he has HIV and faces a life of serious and expensive drugs. And all because he was told a lie about sex.

That's where the morality lies.

May. 17 2012 06:05 AM

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