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?
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. ]