Learning that you're HIV-positive may seem an awful fate, but not learning can be worse. People with undetected HIV not only miss out on early treatment but risk spreading the virus unwittingly. Reliable tests are easy to find, but because they take up to two weeks to evaluate, many patients fail to check back for their results. Now a test called OraQuick, approved for marketing last week, can yield dependable results in just 20 minutes.
The doctor or technician administering it places a drop of the patient's blood in a small vial of solution, along with a dipstick that develops a single dark line when submerged. If the blood sample harbors antibodies to HIV, the stick develops a second line as well, and the patient immediately gets counseling.
OraQuick detects antibodies that may not appear until three months after a person contracts the virus, so it won't pick up new infections. But it will make AIDS testing easier, and that alone could save lives. OraQuick should reach the market around the first of the year.