Unlike the average man in America, I see my primary physician at least every six months. I’ve never had a fear of the doctor’s office and as my family—like many American families—has become familiar with illness, I want to ensure that I’m doing what I can to live a long and healthy life. My doctor specializes in preventive care and we have a great relationship that allows him to ask very direct questions knowing that I am comfortable sharing equally direct responses. He does his job well, but I don’t expect him to be solely responsible for every aspect of my health. In fact, I have recently expanded my participation in several areas of personal care including HIV testing.
At the top of my list of tasks on a recent Monday morning was my routine HIV test with an unusual twist. Instead of getting tested in a cold examination room, I got my results in the comfort of my home using OraQuick, the FDA approved over the counter test. I made a quick trip to my local RiteAid and $43.00, a gum line swab and twenty minutes later I got my results before even making breakfast.
Surely, many will raise concerns about the accessibility of such a test and the process by which the test is performed. While legitimate questions will continue to be raised about the product, I must say that I was pleased with my experience.
As I always do—regardless of what I know to be the case—I was nervous, but there was something about being in my own home and having ownership over the process that made me feel more at ease than usual. Waiting for my results, I sat patiently reading about the science of the virus and resources for care should I need them.
That morning I thought about the millions of lives that have been impacted throughout the international community because people didn’t know or didn’t have the resources necessary to know their status. I thought of how this test can empower millions of Americans to participate in making HIV testing a normal part of our daily lives.
OraQuick and similar tests that may hit the market in the near future will not replace testing services but rather expand them, putting personal care closer to our fingertips.
For many of us, health and medicine are strictly private matters that live in very rigid spheres of our lives. Even those of us who participate in regular testing find some comfort and security in keeping medicine separate from daily life. However, we should all feel empowered to be our own best health advocates. Do you know your status?
Please note that OraQuick, like most HIV tests, only tests for antibodies formed by the immune system. For more information visit http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/
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