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Mixed Reaction About New At-Home HIV Tests

Take-home kits to test for HIV are now a reality.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Take-home kits to test for HIV are now a reality. The FDA just approved it but there are some mixed feelings about in the Mid-South.

The Shelby County Health Department says HIV is a growing problem. There are about 8,000 reported cases every year in the Mid-South and the majority is in Shelby County. The Shelby County Health Department says the problem is people who are infected don't even know it and never get tested.

The Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center provides free HIV testing once a week. It's a simple mouth swab and the results are in about 20-minutes. Thanks to the FDA people can soon do that same test at home.

"While I think it's great to find out your status, there is so much that comes after that,” said the center’s director Will Batts.

Batts believes it is better to get tested by professionals than alone at home.

"There's no one there to talk to or counsel or tell them their options if they tested positive,” Batts stated. “I think there's always a need to provide for professional testing because it provides a safe, welcoming environment."

He's also worried about possible criticism when people are buying their kits at the grocery store.

“What happens when they put it on the counter? How would people respond to that? There's still way too much stigma attached to that,” said Batts.

Anthony Amos thinks otherwise. He's the assistant manager of infectious diseases for the Shelby County Health Department. He believes there will be a demand for HIV home kits.

"The CDC predicts there are 1.2 million people infected and 1 out of 5 doesn’t know that they are positive so it gives us an opportunity to hopefully bring some of those people into care,” said Amos.

The FDA says the HIV home test is about 92-percent accurate.

"There is some room for error when you get it in the hands of the consumer,” Amos told abc24.com. “The kit is only a preliminary test. We will still be in the business of doing the confirmatory."

Whether people get the HIV test at a clinic or at home, Amos stresses people need to get tested. The HIV home kits should be available in pharmacies, grocery stores, and online retailers this fall. The cost for each kit hasn't been determined yet but the FDA says it should not be more than $20.

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