Friday, April 24, 2009

I just found out yesterday about a company that sells home-based HIV-screening kits where the test is self-administered and the results are given in a similar way to home-pregnancy tests. (Information about these tests are available at: Here's the thing: this company is a South African company. The tests can be shipped to the US (no additional costs), so they are discreetly available here in the US.

The fact is this: In many countries - ranging from sub-Saharan Africa to western Europe - it is possible to buy home-based, self-administered HIV-screenings, but here in the US, it is not easy to buy these things. Here at home, the message is that people need counseling to go with testing. While I certainly understand that there is a need for supports and for information about available services for those who get a positive on the screenings. My question is: why do we need these extra things more in the US than in other parts of the world. There is a cynical part of me that says this is just part of the institutional turf of HIV/AIDS services, and the more that people are told that getting an HIV+ result is traumatic, the more it becomes a reality.

Ultimately, if we are to be serious about stopping the spread of HIV and we want to have all people know their status, we need to provide a range of opportunities for people to do so. We have many pieces in place to reach out to the high-risk, but we also need to provide unobtrusive options to the lower-risk. To assume that all people need to go through a system like what we have now to get tested (either a public health clinic or a medical provider - both of whom can be intrusive and sometimes threatening despite best intentions) is erroneous.

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