A tiny USB drive will soon tell you if you have HIV — and how much

usb-hiv-test

❝ Rapid, at-home HIV tests aren’t new: OraQuick, which was released with much fanfare in 2012, provides reasonably accurate results using an oral swab in just 20 minutes. That product allows those who might not otherwise get tested for HIV — because of stigma or lack of access to treatment — to have a better chance of detecting the disease early and getting to a doctor.

But a new at-home device promises to do one better: Using a drop of blood, the USB stick test can actually detect the amount of virus present in a patient’s bloodstream in just half an hour. While OraQuick helps individuals figure out their HIV status so that they can seek medical treatment, the new device described this week in Scientific Reports could show a patient how well their ongoing medical treatment is working — and how transmissible their HIV might be…

❝ Why is that important? The more HIV virus present in a patient’s blood, the more taxed their immune response. A patient with a higher viral load will have fewer of the white blood cells that protect them from other infections. If HIV is allowed to run rampant in the bloodstream, patients can develop AIDS. But if anti-retroviral medication is used to lower the viral count — these days, often to zero — a patient can live normally, in good health and with a typical lifespan…

❝ More research is needed to confirm the accuracy of the device, and making it widely available across HIV-ravaged regions would be no small task. But the idea that monitoring HIV status could soon be as simple as checking blood sugar levels is certainly appealing, and provides hope that researchers may one day be able to all but eradicate the virus.

Bravo! Hopefully, to be manufactured and distributed by a firm with as much heart as profit motive.

Nearly half of Americans didn’t vote — Shutting down easy access to vote was part of the reason

The latest poll numbers also indicate that Clinton may have just barely squeezed out a win in the popular vote. An estimated 25.6 percent of eligible voters named Clinton while 25.5 percent voted for Trump.

When you narrow the numbers down to those who did vote, Clinton had 48 percent (59,580,545 votes) compared to 47 percent (59,341,558 votes) for Trump, according to the Associated Press.

Last Tuesday was the first election since the 2013 Supreme Court ruling against the Voting Rights Act. The changes added new voter identification requirements.

Opportunity remains an outstanding limiting factor. Since the 2012 election, over 800 polling places were simply closed.

A new way to die in the West — thanks to Colorado

❝ Apart from the presidency, Tuesday’s election offered some interesting results for the way Americans meet their ends. In Nebraska, Oklahoma and California, voters supported restoring or accelerating the death penalty.

Meanwhile in Colorado, voters approved a measure that will allow terminally ill people to end their own lives. This makes it the sixth state to offer such an option.

❝ Assisted suicide allows a terminally ill person to buy — with a doctor’s permission and evaluation — a barbiturate, usually pentobarbital or secobarbital. These drugs depress central nervous system function, and can be used as anti-convulsants or anesthetics. At high doses, they cause death.

Colorado’s ballot initiative passed overwhelmingly, with two-thirds of voters in support and just one-third opposed…

❝ Colorado’s new law was modeled after Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” law, which passed 22 years ago. The much-publicized assisted death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard in that state was a central aspect of the campaign in Colorado; her husband, Dan Diaz, has been working to change the law in other states…

California, Vermont and Washington have similar laws that allow some form of medical aid in dying. In Montana, people can be given the option through case-by-case court approval. Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland also allow medically assisted death…

Nicest thing about the Colorado law? C’mon, you already know the answer to this one. In Colorado you can get stoned on the way out – making the experience a bit easier on the decision-maker.