Scientists are always looking for a way to speed up different processes or to make them more accessible to people overall. One such process is the HIV test. At the moment,OraQuick is one of the fastest ways to get accurate results using an oral swab. This is practical for people who are afraid of other people’s opinions or are simply not able to go for regular checkups.
Recently, scientists have been working on a new device, a USB that uses a drop of blood in order to determine the amount of virus present. OraQuick only shows that a person has HIV. The new USB device can show how well the virus is responding to treatment, as well as how likely you are to pass it on to others.
The USB uses a phone chip that shows changes in acidity in a person’s blood as electrical signals. It has an almost 90 percent accuracy rating when determining viral load within the bloodstream. So there is room for improvement, but it does look promising.
Determining the size of the load is crucial in the battle against AIDS. A higher viral load means there are fewer white blood cells available for battling infections. If the load reaches a certain point, developing AIDS is almost inevitable. Currently, if a person is put on anti-retroviral medication, they are able to lower their viral count sometimes even to zero. People who are HIV positive but have a zero viral count can lead a normal life and reach normal life expectancy.
Periodical testing is required in order to determine whether the virus was able to mutate in order to battle the administered medication. Patients with a viral load of zero can even partake in unprotected sex if their partner is on PrEP therapy. But if they do go down that road, it is critical that they keep an eye out on their viral load.
Current tests are expensive and take quite some time before returning the results. In regions where AIDS is especially prevalent, like some parts of Africa, these tests aren’t even available. Soon tests may be performed on USB sized devices instead of the large ones used now.
There is still research to be done to make the device more accurate. Also, researchers are looking into ways to lower the cost of production in order to make it more readily available for people everywhere. In the end, it is more than worth it if it means that monitoring your HIV status can be as easy as monitoring blood sugar levels.