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HIV Home Testing Kits

[Anecdotes] These comments appear courtesy the Health Policy Leadership Fellows at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

In July 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first HIV home test kits. Some controversy has stirred around the cost of the test and testing sexual partners at home.  It is argued that the cost of the home test is more than the cost of a visit to a health center, which would also include HIV counseling.  Unlike health care workers who must adhere to confidentiality by federal law, home tests takers are not bound by confidentiality if a partner tests positive. What company, local, state, or federal policies, if any, should be put in place to address the issues of HIV home test kit cost and partner privacy?
"Condoms" by Wheeler Cowperthwaite on Flickr (Creative Commons License)
Kameron Sheats, PhD says…
There are several vulnerabilities to the use of home HIV testing kits including the cost, potential confidentiality issues, risk of facilitating unprotected sex, and difficulty persuading partners to participate in testing. However, I believe that home kits can serve as one alternative avenue by which some people can become aware of their own as well as their sexual partner(s) HIV status. Some of the aforementioned vulnerabilities can be addressed by selling the kits behind pharmacy counters (without a prescription) so that pharmacists can provide some level of counseling about the risks, benefits, and uses of the kits. Furthermore, there should be laws against disclosing the HIV status of a partner without the partner’s permission. While home HIV testing kits may not be the ideal option for everyone, I believe that these two policies would make the kits more effective for persons who choose to use them.
Megan Douglas, JD says…

Although home HIV test kits sound like a great idea, there are too many flaws with the test’s capability and the public’s misperception of the disease to promote widespread use. Most importantly, a negative test provides a false sense of security if an individual is actually infected. Condoms remain critical to avoid the spread of all STDs. Unlike in a doctor’s office, there is no pre- or post-test counseling at home, which could lead to stigma, self-destructive behaviors, or abuse. Before companies market home HIV tests on a broad scale, the government should implement policies promoting consumer education and safety prior to purchase.

 

[ These comments appear courtesy the Health Policy Leadership Fellows at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine. Dr. Renée Volny, a Policy Prescriptions ® contributor, currently serves as interim associate director of the Fellowship and has encouraged her Fellows to engage in discussions on current health policy topics. The best discussion points put forth will be featured on our site. ]   

About Renée Volny Darko, DO, MBA

Dr. Volny is an OB/GYN for the UPMC Altoona Regional Health System. She recently served as interim associate director of the Health Policy Leadership Fellowship at the Morehouse School of Medicine’s Satcher Health Leadership Institute under the direction of the 16th U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher. She is, herself, a 2011 graduate of that fellowship. She earned her medical degree from Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and her Masters in Business Administration in Health Care Leadership from Rockhurst University. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the UMDNJ – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in 2010. Contact: Facebook | Twitter | More Posts

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