Local health workers question HIV home tests
South of the border this week the Food and Drug Administration approved a new technology they hope will help in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
It’s the first home test kit that can determine if you’re HIV positive. The test prompts you to take a swab of the inside of your upper and lower gums, and gives you a result in 20 to 40 minutes.
The FDA reported a 93 percent accuracy rate in detecting positives and a 99 percent accuracy rate for negative results.
The U.S news has perked the ears of health workers here in Saskatchewan. HIV and AIDS costs the health care system more than $40 million per year.
“The cost of every HIV infection is very high, and obviously has a high impact on the person,” said Dr. Moira McKinnon, Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer. “So anything we can do to stop even one infection is very important.”
The manufacturer, Orasure, says they’re considering bringing the test north of the border. They’d have to apply for a license with Health Canada, who would then review the product which could take anywhere from months to years.
But local AIDS activist, Margaret Poitras with the All Nations Health AIDS Network says the innovation could be dangerous.
“We’ve always said there needs to be some pre and post test councilling that’s associated with knowing your HIV status,” said Poitras.
She says there’s still a lot of myths and misinformation about HIV. Having a health professional there to explain the results could mean a world of difference.
“We’ve heard horror stories of people who have tested positive and have committed suicide, or have went on a drug binge and died of an overdose,” she said.
The government has already increased access the HIV tests. They’ve put them in wellness centres, clinics and needle exchange sites. But in every case, somebody is there to explain that HIV is not a death sentence. Dr. McKinnon says adding home kits to the mix would be just another element in a comprehensive strategy.
“Once it was through we would look at it within the context of Saskatchewan. What sort of education and supports do we need to make it a useful tool to increase testing,” said Dr. McKinnon.
The home test kits hit the U.S market in October.
The Canadian average for HIV rates is 9.3 cases per 100,000 people. Saskatchewan’s rate is 20.8 cases per 100,000 people, according to reports released in 2010.
The majority of new cases are said to be related to injected drug use.
93 percent of the reported cases in Saskatchewan are from Aboriginal women under 30 years old.
In 2009, the majority of HIV cases were reported in Saskatoon followed by Regina and Prince Albert came in a close third.