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Home HIV Test about Putting Patients in Charge of Health

According to the Washington Post, the FDA is currently considering approval of a new home HIV test, which could be purchased over the counter and administered within 20 minutes by performing a simple gum swab.

There are still some hurdles to clear before this test pops up in your neighborhood pharmacy. Its false negative rate, 7 percent, is above the FDA’s maximum of 5 percent so more tweaks may be needed. Less justifiably, some public health experts are concerned that those who test positive may be less likely to seek treatment without a doctor’s encouragement.

Via Meadia hopes that this test, or one like it, can be approved. A test like this could help prevent the spread of HIV, which is often transmitted by people who don’t know they have it and wouldn’t think to get tested at a clinic. Perhaps a more convenient and private test would lead many of them to take the plunge.

Beyond the AIDS struggle, giving people more control over their health is a necessary part of creating a sustainable health care system in this country. A dependency culture—waiting passively for the doctors to take care of it—both infantilizes people and raises costs.

Naturally, there are limits to how much responsibility you can expect from people, but a health care system that unnecessarily restricts individual choice and costs so much that it will bankrupt the country is also a bad idea. More power in health care and more responsibility needs to go to individuals; they will sometimes make bad decisions, but doctors and public health “experts” are also mistaken from time to time.

More green shoots like this HIV test would be most welcome.

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  • raf

    The real engine of preventing HIV spread would be people performing the test on prospective partners before, er, partnering.

  • Kris

    raf@1: True enough, but then some people seem to find condom use too much of an imposition.

  • Bob

    Since Obama took office I have to get a prescription to purchase CPAP supplies. Basically, to buy an air pump and hoses I need permission from a doctor. Stupid.

  • JPL17

    Wow, 24 years later, it looks like Leonard Cohen’s words are finally coming true:

    Everybody knows that the plague is coming,
    Everybody knows that it’s moving fast.
    Everybody knows that the naked man + woman
    Are just a shining artifact of the past.
    Everybody knows the scene is dead,
    But there’s gonna be a meter on your bed
    That will disclose
    What everybody knows.

    –“Everybody Knows”
    (from his 1988 album, “I’m Your Man”)

  • Fred

    As purely a medical issue (I really don;t care if someone is gay or not), the HIV test is bogus.

    It doesn’t detect virus –only non-specific antibodies, which may or may not respond to the virus.

    The reason for this strange test, is that they can never find actual, culturable virus in AIDS patients. You could take a liter of Magic Johnson’s blood and not find HIV. This of course, begs the question — if they can’t detect acual HIV in AIDS patients, how could it be causing all that health damage?

  • teapartydoc

    The deregulation of medicine will come one way or another. My preference would be to avoid the pain and expense of maintaining the current government-controlled monopoly, and doing it now by eliminating government licensing of health care workers. Maintaining the current system simply prolongs privileging some people at the expense of others, whether it be through the Davis-Bacon act, licensing hairdressers and barbers, accrediting schools, or affirmative action programs. We do live in a society of aristocratic privilege, whether folks like to admit it or not. We need to get back on the path by which things are determined and decided by contract, not status–see H.S.Maine.

  • CS

    @teapartydoc: hard not to think of Chesterton and the parable of the gate. But sure, let’s let anybody perform surgery. What could go wrong? (What could we call the licensing-repeal legislation? The Trial Lawyers Full Employment Act of 2012? Or do you have some other method in mind whereby the market would discipline the incompetent? Isn’t medical licensure meant to solve a pretty obvious information problem?)

    @WRM: Home HIV testing makes sense as a screener, although a 7% false negative rate seems like an invitation to tragedy and litigation, two things already in good supply. There’s the public health aspect–how would reporting work, or is that no one’s business? More obviously, what would one do with a positive result? Buy HAART drugs over the counter?

  • jaed

    Surely you didn’t write that seriously? If you get a positive result, you would most likely make an appointment with a doctor expert in diagnosis and treatment of this disease as your next move.

    As for licensure “solving” the problem of avoiding mistakes, screwups, and resultant lawsuits… tell me, how is that working out for you? There are arguments in favor of requiring government permission to practice medicine, but “Oh otherwise lawsuits will rage out of control” isn’t a convincing one.

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