Statement from HIV Medicine Association Chair Judith A. Aberg, MD, FIDSA
As HIV medical providers and researchers on the front lines of the HIV pandemic, we strongly support expanded access to HIV testing to improve early detection of HIV infection. We believe the rapid antibody HIV test recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for sale over the counter holds great promise as a self-directed tool for people to learn their HIV status.
We also urge continued research and education in heavily affected areas and with low income and minority populations disproportionately affected by HIV to determine how the test instructions and accompanying support materials can raise the accuracy of the test results closer to the level obtained by professionals. Consumer information accompanying this test should also provide clear, ample guidance for people who test positive so they can be linked to confirmatory testing, medical care, and treatment and support services, as well as guidance and resources for those who test negative on how to avoid HIV infection.
Expanded knowledge of HIV status and timely connection to medical care are critical to improving patient outcomes and to preventing HIV transmission. Of the 1.2 million people in the United States living with HIV/AIDS, approximately 20 percent are not aware that they are infected, and far too many start treatment too late, when therapy is less effective. People who enter into care and treatment late are at high risk for clinical events and death, and are more likely to present with multiple illnesses within a short time period, and to show a poorer response to therapy.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy, supported by effective implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, can help us dramatically alter the course of the HIV epidemic. The ability of consumers to obtain HIV testing kits in drug stores and conduct their own tests in the privacy of their homes will provide another valuable tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS by empowering more people to become aware of their HIV status.
The HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) is the professional home for more than 5,000 physicians, scientists, and other health care professionals dedicated to the field of HIV/AIDS. Nested within the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), HIVMA promotes quality in HIV care and advocates policies that ensure a comprehensive and humane response to the AIDS pandemic informed by science and social justice. For more information, visit www.hivma.org.
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