An HIV home-testing kit now being sold is marketed toward people who want to test themselves in the privacy of their homes and learn the results in about 20 minutes. But the New York Times today reports on another use for the $40 OraQuick test that has the potential for a bigger impact on public health—people might keep them on hand to screen potential sex partners. The company's clinical trial suggests most people who buy the test would use it for that purpose, too.
"If it becomes a community norm, people may start testing their partners,” says an HIV expert at Columbia. "On sex sites now, men advertise themselves as ‘drug-and-disease-free.’ They could start saying ‘D-and-D-free, and willing to prove it.'" Skeptics worry about false readings, or that a negative test might encourage people to skip the condom and thus raise the risk of STDs. Still, says AIDS activist Larry Kramer, if this test were around decades ago, "there would have been a lot more people alive today."