FDA Advisory Panel Recommends Approval of Home HIV Test Kits and HIV Prevention Pills

There is an old saying that advises us that “prevention is better than the cure”. This is a widely accepted idiom and is especially true when it comes to HIV/AIDS because, as of date, no cure has been found for the disease. The only strategy that has been used in various scenarios is to prevent the transmission of the virus. So far, this strategy has been quite successful, although a lot more needs to be done, especially when it comes to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV/AIDS.

It therefore comes as great news to hear that advisory panels to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have recommended that two new weapons be added to the HIV prevention arsenal. The first is an over-the-counter HIV kit that will allow people to test themselves in the privacy of their own homes1. The second is a pill that can help prevent people from becoming infected with the virus2.

The HIV Home Test Kit
On May 15th, 2012 an expert panel recommended that the FDA approve the first ever over-the-counter HIV test. A 17-member advisory panel unanimously voted in support of the kit and mentioned that it would broaden testing options for Americans who were reluctant to get tested at medical facilities. The test uses a mouth swab to detect the presence of anti-bodies to the virus. The results can be found out in about 20 minutes.

On a global scale, the test could be sent to remote destinations in third world countries where access to medical facilities is absent. They can even be used in countries where stigma of being HIV positive is so high that people would rather die from the disease (even when free anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment is available) than to seek help once the disease has been diagnosed.

The HIV Prevention Pill
Similarly, another FDA advisory panel has recommended the approval of a drug that would prevent HIV infection. The drug is aimed at people that tend to have highly active sexual lifestyle or couples with one HIV-positive partner. So far, studies have shown that the daily pills had a 90 percent chance of preventing infection.

Previous studies have also shown that women have a higher chance of getting infected with HIV than men. Being able to take the pill to stop the infection can potentially drastically lower the number of women getting infected, and hence, the number of children being born with the disease due to mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV/AIDS.

Although there are some side-effects (loss of bone density and risk of acquiring highly drug resistant strains of the virus in case of infection), panelists agreed that the advantages far outweighed the risks.

One can only hope that, after 30 years, the dawn is finally coming in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It is therefore critical that the Vitalwave team continue to develop photodisinfection technology to help prevent HIV infection. To learn more about this project, please read this blog post by Dr. Bryon Bhagwandin.


1 – Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/home-hiv-test-weighed-by-fda-advisory-panel/2012/05/15/gIQA9DQ1QU_story.html

2 – The Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/health/2018185292_hivdrug11.html

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