Monday, July 15, 2013

HIV Self Testing- Potential Benefits

Depending on the setting, 30-60% of HIV positive individuals are unaware of their diagnosis. This is a huge obstacle for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of HIV.

The US Preventive Services Task Force now recommends routine, voluntary HIV testing  for all people ages 15-65. A new era of prevention is on the horizon. The time is now to reassess the role of HIV self-testing.

Here is a review (free, full text) on HIV self testing published in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Proponents of HIV self testing argue that self diagnosis will increase the knowledge of HIV status, is convenient, and has the potential to remove the stigma surrounding HIV. Counterarguments include the potential for inaccurate results and the psychological danger when decoupling testing from pre/post result counseling.

The potential psychological danger of HIV self testing is not trivial. The article neatly summarizes the limited data on this concern, suggesting that evidence of harm is scant and that HIV self testing regret was minimal. This is encouraging.

If HIV self testing is reliable, actively promoted, and available, and if individuals testing positive are linked to counseling and care, this could significantly impact the HIV epidemic.

HIV testing leads to diagnosis, diagnosis leads to treatment, treatment is lifesaving and treatment is prevention

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