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Home test for HIV?

Published:Sunday | May 13, 2012 | 12:00 AM

United States FDA considering approval of over-the-counter test kit

WASHINGTON (AP):The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering approval of the first over-the-counter HIV test that would allow consumers to quickly test themselves for the virus at home, without medical supervision.

FDA reviewers said Friday the OraQuick In-Home HIV test could play a significant role in slowing the spread of HIV, according to briefing documents posted online. But they also raised concerns about the accuracy of the test, a mouth swab that returns results in about 20 minutes.

The review comes one day after an FDA advisory panel endorsed the HIV pill Truvada for preventive use.

If FDA follows the group's advice, the daily medication would become the first drug approved to prevent healthy people from becoming infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

Public health experts estimate one-fifth, or about 240,000 people, of the 1.2 million HIV carriers in the US are not aware they are infected.

93 per cent accuracy

Testing is one of the chief means of slowing new infections, which have held steady at about 50,000 per year for two decades.

In a trial conducted by the company OraSure Technologies., the test correctly detected HIV in those carrying the virus 93 per cent of the time. That rate is below the FDA-recommended 95 per cent threshold for accuracy.

The FDA estimates the test would miss about 3,800 HIV-positive people per year, if approved for US consumers.

The test was more accurate at correctly clearing patients who do not have the disease. In company studies, OraQuick correctly identified HIV-negative users 99 per cent of the time.

In their briefing documents, FDA scientists noted both the benefits and risks of expanding HIV testing with the take-home diagnostic kit.

"There is considerable personal and public-health value in informing infected, but otherwise untested, persons of their true positive HIV status," the reviewers state. "However, this benefit is offset in some measure by HIV-positive individuals who receive an incorrect message that they are not infected."

On Tuesday, the FDA will ask a panel of outside experts whether the test should be approved for over-the-counter sales in US.

The agency is not required to follow the group's advice, though it usually does.

The FDA has already approved HIV test kits that people take home. However, those kits, which require a blood sample, must be sent to a laboratory for development. But OraSure argues that a test that can be done at home will appeal to a much broader group of people.