Testing for HIV is the entryway to care. Thirty years into the AIDS epidemic, we continue to search for new and innovative ways to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS, especially among disproportionately affected populations.
Dr. Hyman M. Scott, M.D., M.P.H. a research Fellow at University of California San Francisco, will be using the recently FDA approved, over the counter, in-home HIV tests in a study he will be leading called HOME.
HOME will utilize a new multistage HIV prevention intervention, based on technology and clear navigation to facilitate and support HIV self-testing, as well as linkage to HIV prevention and treatment services.
The interventions will target young Black and Latino men who have sex with men in San Francisco and Oakland.
Individuals will have access to an oral test that empowers them to learn their HIV status in the comfort of their own home and obtain referrals to care if needed.
Born in Chicago and raised by his grandparents, Scott became interested in HIV at age 12 when his mother shared with him her HIV test results, which were negative.
“That was the moment that HIV was no longer a faraway place,” he said of that moment. “It no longer was just a gay white man’s disease in San Francisco, but a disease that affected us, African Americans. Her testing made it real.”
From that time on, he knew he would work in medicine in the HIV field.
Hyman says as a young intern, his first patient was a Black woman with six children. After getting to know her, he realized their lives were similar. He feels honored that at such an early time in his practice, he had a chance to see the caring side of HIV.
Although the medications made the woman severely ill, she continued to take them, not for her own health, but to be able to survive to care for her family. “That was a real eye opener,” about the challenges people who live with HIV face, he said.
Scott opted to stay in the U.S. rather than to train abroad. “I’ve always had interest in the domestic epidemic,” Scott said. “There are plenty of marginalized populations here at home.”
Among young men who have sex with men, the increase in HIV was largely driven by infections among young African American men. The question is why is this happening, said Scott, who hopes his study will produce the answers.
The study gives him the opportunity to try something different, which he hopes will be a game changer.
The first and only Rapid HIV test became available for over the counter this month, available for purchase online and at CVS Retail Stores nationwide.