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Group pushes for widespread at-home testing for HIV

GLENN TOWNES Special to the AmNews | 1/10/2013, 1:07 p.m.
Honoring 20 years of providing HIV/AIDS services in Harlem

Last week, a federal panel issued preliminary guidelines that recommend that widespread testing for HIV be implemented in an effort to combat the spread of the virus and encourage people to know their status.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent watchdog group of sorts within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, issued a release advocating the use of home testing kits for HIV. The agency said that by implementing a ubiquitous edict, more people would be encouraged to know their status and take the necessary measures to combat the virus.

"Too many Americans are simply unaware that they are carrying the HIV virus," said Mary Vogt, president of Home Access Health Corporation, an Illinois-based company that manufactures at-home laboratory testing kits, including those for HIV. Vogt added that stigma and misinformation may lull people into a false sense of security when it comes to knowing their status. Vogt lauded the HHS recommendation for at-home testing services. "Increased testing can lead to earlier medical treatment and prevent the transmission of infection," she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, about 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV and about 20 percent of them are unaware they have the virus. This information, along with a study two years ago by the MAC AIDS Fund Group, under the MAC Cosmetics Group in New York, revealed that nearly three quarters of women don't know if they are carriers of HIV/AIDS.

"People still see HIV/AIDS as a gay man's disease," said Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute in California. "But the face of HIV/AIDS has changed and more women [especially African-American women and Latinas] are becoming infected."

Wilson has been living with the virus for more than 30 years. He was one of the keynote speakers this summer at the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C.

To obtain a Home Access Express HIV-1 Test System kit, by the Home Health Access Corporation, visit www.homeaccess.com. The kit is also available at most major retail drugstores. The Home Access Express HIV-1 Test System was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1996 and boasts a 99.9 percent accuracy rate in determining HIV status.