HIV Tests for Everyone! You Get an HIV Test! And You Get an HIV Test!

The home test should be available in 30,000 pharmacies, grocery stores and online retailers by October, said Douglas Michels, OraSure’s chief executive. The price has not yet been set. But he said it would be higher than the $17.50 now charged to medical professionals because the company will do more complicated packaging for the home kit, open a 24-hour question line, and advertise to high-risk groups, including gay men, blacks and Hispanics, and sexually active adults. Still, he said, it will be kept inexpensive enough to appeal to people who might want to buy several a year.

These will make a great gift. I mean it. Pregnancy tests are also a great gift. You think I’m joking, but I’m absolutely not joking. Here’s how it’ll go down: You’ll be like, “Here, happy birthday! Happy graduation! Take these HIV tests! Look I wrapped them up so pretty with a bow! I’m either implying that you have too much sex or not enough sex by my gifting of them! Hilarious!” And then your friend will be like, “Oh, ha! That is funny! You know me, totally celibate/totally not celibate! Ha!” Your friend will keep them in her dresser for a long time and then one night she’ll make a sexual decision that maybe doesn’t involve protection or maybe she’ll break up with her boyfriend of several years and then decide she doesn’t trust anything about him, including the fact that he was HIV negative, as he had previously claimed.

And your joke gift of HIV tests will SAVE HER SANITY, because it’s not that big of deal! She’ll just swab her gums and wait 40 minutes and then she’ll know! You saved her weeks waiting for an appointment and then hours having to sitting in a waiting room. Well done. (She’ll also be glad in three months that you got her a second one because it takes three months for the antibodies to show up, but I, with all of my medical and psych degrees—I don’t have these—think taking one right away is good, too, mentally.)

The only question now is how much these HIV tests will cost. The current home test, which you have send to a lab, no thanks, is $58. Will it be less? Will it be more? I think $19.99 would be a great price point but what do I know (not much).

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10 Comments / Post A Comment

ThatJenn (#916)

I am super excited about these (not kidding).

Spinach Party (#253)

Yeah, agreed- kinda super awesome! I meant to get tested during my last annual check-up, they said they didn’t have needled small enough(?) and I needed to go to QuestDiagnostics. I got lost on the way and just never went…. I guess the main point of this story is that I’m an idiot. And there are also other idiots like me who could totally benefit from this?

Megano! (#124)

“…advertise to high-risk groups, including gay men, blacks and Hispanics, and sexually active adults.”

Sooo…pretty much everyone?

allreb (#502)

Sorry for being all, “Actually I work in HIV, and…” about this, but actually, I work in HIV, and though I’m really (really, really) glad you amended this with the note that it takes about three months for antibodies to show up, I’d say that taking a test immediately after might soothe you, but it also makes it way easier to say, “Hey, I took an HIV test, and it was negative,” and let it slide when you actually *should* take a test.

(There’s been a lot of debate in the HIV community about whether these tests are a good or bad thing overall. Providing a way for people to test at home could encourage more people to get tested, since there’s still a depressing amount of stigma that keeps people from asking their docs for the test, and also a lot of stigma and assumptions that keep doctors from offering tests to people when they should. So more people being potentially willing to get tested = very good! But the thing is, getting a *positive* HIV test is an actually traumatic event, in that literally, it has been known to give people PTSD, and even without that, it’s an enormous, life changing event, and HIV education in this country is pretty terrible, so most people have a lot of mistaken, and generally terrible, assumptions about what living with HIV means. So while a phone line for counseling is great, there’s nothing that actually ensures people who test positive will call it, especially not if they’re — understandably — freaking out. If you use the *old* version of the home test kit, where you have to mail in the sample and call a lab to get your results, you’re already on the line with someone for counseling; if you test with your doctor, you’re already talking to a health care provider, who can hopefully point you towards the best resources for you. If you’re testing alone, at home, for a disease that is incredibly complicated and often very isolating, well… There are are a huge amount of potential problems there.

Anyway, I shall tiptoe out now, because that really wasn’t the point of the article, sorry, bye.)

@allreb Please don’t apologize for these insights! I thought your comment was really interesting, and I was glad to read it! I had been wondering what people in the HIV community were thinking about these tests.

ThatJenn (#916)

@allreb These are really good points, and the isolating factor is actually one I thought about a lot (I once had a scary time when the nurse who’d taken my blood draw for my rapid HIV test – taken due to actual suspected exposure – out in the open with other patients made me go into a closed room along with her and her supervisor to get my results, even though that wasn’t standard procedure for negative results, and took her sweet time telling me it was negative, and even THAT makes me wake up in a cold sweat remembering it) when I first heard about these tests. That said, I think I’d rather have people know than not know? It should just also send you a follow-up message three to six months later, too, maybe. :) (OK, there are practical problems with that, too, but for those of us with a strong sense of personal responsibility it might work?)

allreb (#502)

@Jenn@twitter Aaack, that sounds awful. (I definitely lean towards more people knowing is a good thing, probably good enough to make the test worthwhile to have available, though I clearly have reservations.)

jimz (#1,463)

I think I’d be more at ease purchasing this than I am purchasing condoms, strangely enough.

selenana (#673)

I also think this is great. I hope it doesn’t end up discouraging people from getting the help they need, as allreb fears, but man, going to the sex clinic or PP or whatever, though I feel good about it, IS kind of a hassle and takes half a day by the time you sit in the waiting room, get your exam, wait for your prescription, whatever. And this is much less of a time/emotional investment.

ThatJenn (#916)

@selenana Yeah, really. I love me some Planned Parenthood, but they’re nowhere near where I work and only open right smack in the middle of my work day.

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