A quick HIV test is about to hit the US market.
November 8, 2002 10:04 AM   Subscribe

A quick HIV test is about to hit the US market. An HIV test that is easy to administer and provides results in 20 minutes has just been approved by the FDA. This is a big deal partly because almost 250,000 Americans are infected and don't know it. The ease of this fast-response test will help identify some of them.
posted by o2b (30 comments total)
Yes, yes, Newsfilter. But this is a BIG DEAL for Americans.
posted by o2b at 10:05 AM on November 8, 2002

I could make a mint by setting up kiosks in happening downtown areas. I can see the signs now: "Does Mr. Right Now have AIDS? We can tell you in 20 minutes!"
posted by Irontom at 10:10 AM on November 8, 2002

That should read "Mr. or Mrs. Right Now"
posted by Irontom at 10:11 AM on November 8, 2002

And "HIV" as opposed to "AIDS"

I was way to amused by my own joke.
posted by Irontom at 10:13 AM on November 8, 2002

But this is a BIG DEAL for Americans humans.

The article didn't say that similar tests were available anywhere else in the world, so I'd say it's probably a safe assumption that this is the first easy to use, cheap, quick, and accurate HIV test period. This could mean a lot for a lot of people throughout the world, especially the movement in Africa to attempt to stunt the spread of HIV. Kudos to these guys for doing it.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:13 AM on November 8, 2002

"too" not "to" damnit!!

"way too amused"

I am now taking my fat fingers away from the keyboard.
posted by Irontom at 10:14 AM on November 8, 2002

This is really amazing, but I have to wonder how long it sat waiting for FDA approval?
posted by bmxGirl at 10:17 AM on November 8, 2002

I'm not getting another HIV test until this product is available at my doctor's office/clinic/drug store. I don't know how many of you have gone through this, but two weeks is a shockingly long and horrible time to wait for such a test result. I do find the reduced accuracy a bit of a deterrent, but I'll take that over two weeks of hell any day.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:27 AM on November 8, 2002

but I have to wonder how long it sat waiting for FDA approval?

Must we dig through good news to find some sort of underlying badness to it?

Sheesh, I'm usually overly cynical, but even I find that comment to be pretty "out there". In all honesty, who cares how long it took, the fact is it recieved approval.

Stop looking for that dark lining on an otherwise silver cloud. It's not healthy, or productive.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:29 AM on November 8, 2002

By the way, bmxGirl, they first filed OraQuick with the FDA a year ago.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:30 AM on November 8, 2002

Well, Dark Messiah, let's go back to 1990, when it took immense pressure to get the FDA to speed AIDS drug approvals from four years to two years. Being suspicious of FDA approval times has much basis in reality.

Here's a kind of hilarious slide show that helps you figure out how to get your product approved by the FDA sooner!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:35 AM on November 8, 2002

My question on the thing is: wasn't it decided some time ago that home AIDS testing was a bad idea, because the false positives -- and you know there'll be some false positives -- would inspire some suicides?
posted by baylink at 10:42 AM on November 8, 2002

It's not available for home use yet - it's just fast.
posted by agregoli at 10:55 AM on November 8, 2002

Awesome! I am so psyched that I stayed single now that the Sexual Revolution Round II is about to begin, I guess I'll have to get rid of that pesky girlfriend though!

On a more serious note, wouldn't a false negative be more dangerous? With the positive at least you'd chill out and go get a more serious test regime, I would think.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:58 AM on November 8, 2002

because almost 250,000 Americans are infected and don't know it.

I have heard this; where is the statistic, and how is it gained?
posted by four panels at 10:59 AM on November 8, 2002

I do find the reduced accuracy a bit of a deterrent

99.6% is pretty accurate, the original tests weren't that accurate (and would give false positives on a semi-regular basis). And if you get a positive with the new test, you back it up with a good old-fashioned test, to be sure (and while I haven't seen the specs of how the test actually works, it's my understanding that false negatives are far less common in most tests than false positives). I also really like how simple it is to do, and how it can be done with a finger prick blood sample. I wonder how long it'll be before they have ones you can do at home? A whole new aspect of foreplay! I can see the ads now...the hot couple sensually sticking needles into each others fingers...

They were talking about this on NPR yesterday and they said that some ridiculous percentage of people who have the current test never come back to find out the results, and a good percentage of them are positive (and don't know it).

baylink: I'd think that most anything decided "some time ago" in terms of HIV/AIDS wouldn't be as applicable today. While there's definitely far too much faith in the cocktails available, the treatment we have today means more people go longer before developing AIDS, and more people with full-blown AIDS live longer and healthier lives. If anything, people aren't afraid enough anymore (remember WolfDaddy's controversial barebacking post?). It's not generally seen as the death sentence it used to be.
posted by biscotti at 11:01 AM on November 8, 2002

Unfortunatly, a reality of our world. Im pretty sure there is a home test (not as fast though) that lets you mail in and then access via phone your results.
posted by Jessy at 11:03 AM on November 8, 2002

Cool! I used to be a non-HIV test subject for these devices. Glad to hear they finally got out of the lab.
posted by turbodog at 11:28 AM on November 8, 2002

There is another side to your joke, Irontom -- with apologies to Dark Messiah -- that is deeply chilling.

Even if this test becomes so easy and so accessible, it is still a test for HIV antibodies and as such does not reflect an infection with the previous 1-6 months. (The specifics of those numbers are somewhat debated, but all agree that there is at least some period of time before antibodies can be detected.)

So what you'd really be testing for is whether or not "Mr/Mrs. Right Now" was free of infection, say, three months ago. Seems to me that the availability of this test would be likely to spark yet another rise in the prevalence of unsafe sex among... um... newly acquainted partners.

Also, for those of you still dealing with two-week delays: remember that that is, sadly, mostly a matter of economics. As I'm lucky enough to have insurance that will cover this test, I get my results the next day.
posted by theRegent at 11:34 AM on November 8, 2002

Dark Messiah:

In light of your comment on 'underlying badness' and its supposed harmlessness, you might be interested to know that biotech companies in the SF Bay area have held patents on instant HIV tests for quite a while. These tests have been used elsewhere for years, but their use in the United States has been held up purely for profit. Here's a list of some tests. If you go to the company pages, note the disclaimers that these tests are only available in particular places, i.e., not the US. These companies have had the technology but did not want to spend the money required for FDA trials; they also would not release the patents to other companies willing to spend the money for testing, primarly because it will cut into the very large profits on the wait-a-few-days version of the test they've been selling up to this point.
posted by troybob at 11:42 AM on November 8, 2002

I apologize for leaving out the main source article for my statement above (originally from WSJ, but I couldn't find their article to link to).
posted by troybob at 12:01 PM on November 8, 2002

Note to the future:

In a year or two, some faction or other will point to the marked rise in HIV infection and posit a doomsday scenario. This increase is because of better testing, not higher rates of new infection. Please check your statistical sources carefully.

Thank you for your attention.

Also: this is very good news.
posted by frykitty at 12:10 PM on November 8, 2002

frykitty: why do you think merely having a faster (not more accurate or more sensitive) test would increase estimates for HIV incidence?
posted by shoos at 12:49 PM on November 8, 2002

Not to speak for Frykitty, but increased ease of testing will lead to more people know that they do indeed have HIV, not that there will actually be more folks with it.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:03 PM on November 8, 2002

You would think if I was going to speak for someone I would at least do it in a coherent manner, no? Please read: ...lead to more people knowing...
posted by Pollomacho at 1:32 PM on November 8, 2002

Pollomacho: I doubt that any authoritative epidemiological study on HIV incidence would use self-reporting (ie, a questionnaire type thing) for its data. The numbers should come from testing clinics and hospitals, not individuals.

Anyways, even if self-reporting were normally used to calculate HIV incidence, to conclude that use of the fast test will increase the calculated percentage of HIV-positive people you would have to assume that among those in the past who've done the "long" 2-week test, the ones that have gone back for their results have a lower incidence than those who didn't go back for their results.
posted by shoos at 1:55 PM on November 8, 2002

Self-reporting doesn't enter into it. If results can be attained in 20 minutes rather than 2 weeks (or 24 hours as someone pointed out) there is potentially a much larger number of folks who will go in for testing out of the sheer convenience factor. More testing of more people means more reported cases, regardless if they report their own results or not, the clinic where the tests will be done (remember this is NOT a home test) will have records.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:15 PM on November 8, 2002

Yes, more testing will mean more reported cases. But epidemiologists are (usually) smart enough to realize that to extrapolate results from a sample population to an overall "incidence" you need to take your study size (called the "n" value) into account, not merely the number of HIV-positives. That's basic statistics.

In other words, the more you test, the more HIV cases you'll see, but also the more HIV negatives you'll see. Unless, like I said, you've got some difference with regard to testing-related behavior between the HIV-positive testers and HIV-negative testers.
posted by shoos at 2:40 PM on November 8, 2002

Im pretty sure there is a home test (not as fast though) that lets you mail in and then access via phone your results.

I have used the Home Access test a few times. Depending on the test you buy, you can get the results as soon as three days. If you don't mind spending the money, it's a convenient way to test yourself on your own terms and time. It is a little scary, though, to call in and wait for a recorded voice to tell your fate. I liked using it, though, because of reasons others have already touched on - having to wait two weeks, having to go back in a second time for your results. I think the 20 minute test is a great idea.
posted by CreequeAlley at 3:00 PM on November 8, 2002

Similar tests have been available in several other countries over the counter in pharmacies for some time. I believe the reason they have not been for sale in the U.S. (as with several other home diagnostic tests) is that certain powers believe that it is very dangerous for the citizenry to be able to admister tests themselves and not have the results interpreted by a trained physician. In the HIV testing scenario it is believed that if a positive (or negative) result is returned appropriate psychological counselling should be dispensed with the result.

I think that the waiting for these tests to become readily available in the U.S. has absolutely nothing to do with their accuracy or safety. It is pure politics. Think of the money the medical industry (Physicians, Testing Laboratories etc.) will lose out on if people can quickly and simply test for conditions at home...
posted by john.institution at 2:05 PM on November 10, 2002

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