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.

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