New Study Seeks Answers in HIV Epidemic

New Study Seeks Answers in HIV Epidemic

Testing for HIV is the entryway to care. 30 years into the AIDS epidemic we continue to search for new and innovative ways to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS, especially in disproportionately affected populations.

Dr. Hyman M. Scott, M.D., M.P.H. a research Fellow at UCSF will be using the recently FDA approved, over the counter, in-home HIV tests, in a study he will be heading called HOME. HOME will be the development of a new multistage HIV prevention intervention, utilizing technology and clear navigation to facilitate and support HIV self testing as well as linkage to HIV prevention and treatment services. HOME will target young black and Latino Men that have sex with Men (MSM) in San Francisco and Oakland. In-home HIV testing represents a major breakthrough in HIV testing. Individuals will have access to an in-home 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 when at age 12 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 says of that moment in time, “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 moment on, he knew he would work in medicine and work in the HIV field.

Hyman says as a young intern his first patient was a black female with six children and after getting to know her, realized that their lives were very similar. He feels honored that it was then at an early time in his practice, that he got a chance to see the caring side of HIV. He remembers although the medications made her severely ill, she continued to take them, not for her own health, but to be able to be here to care for her family. “That was a real eye opener”, says Scott to the challenges that people living with HIV face.

Scott opted to stay in the U.S. as opposed to training abroad. “I’ve always had interest in the domestic epidemic”, Scott said, “There are plenty of marginalized populations here at home”. Particularly interested in the high rates of HIV transmissions still happening in MSMs of color Scott said that over a three year period, new infections in the United States remained relatively stable except for the age group 13 to 29 years old and within that age group, the only risk group experiencing increases was MSM. Among young MSMs the increases was largely driven by a statistically significant increase in new HIV infections in young black/African American MSMs. Scott says the question is why is this happening to MSM’s of color and hopes that the study will produce answers. The study gives him the opportunity to try something different, something safe and feasible, and hopefully he says 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.

Written by: Jesse Brooks

January 2013