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February 10, 1997

Home Access HIV TestingWhat Took So Long?

Arch Intern Med. 1997;157(3):261-262. doi:10.1001/archinte.1997.00440240011002

A DECADE AGO when the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) antibody test was first introduced as a measure to protect the nation's blood supply, flyers printed by gay activists warned, "Don't take the test." What would be the point, activists wondered? The risks were great—merely seeking an HIV antibody test could subject a person to discrimination and perhaps the loss of a job, housing, or insurance coverage. The benefits were remote— there was little to offer by way of clinical interventions for those who tested positive. Moreover, the behavioral advice would be the same whether the results were positive or negative—practice safer sex and avoid sharing dirty needles.

The clinical backdrop for decisions regarding HIV testing could hardly be more different today. Exciting developments offer compelling reasons for those at risk to discover their HIV statuses as early as possible. Although controversy continues to surround decisions regarding exactly when to initiate

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