Magic Johnson: At-Home HIV Test Is “A Game-Changer”

Magic Johnson sitting down to discuss HIV test OraQuickAccording to Earvin “Magic” Johnson, his decision to endorse OraQuick, the first FDA-approved home HIV test, comes from what he knows personally about the factors endangering at-risk African American and Hispanic communities.

“OraQuick is a game changer for us…especially when you think about the stigmas in the black and brown community,” Johnson said recently.

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“The black and brown community…these are the people who I was thinking about most when I thought about this kit,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to go to the clinic. We don’t want anybody to see us at the doctor. We don’t want people to know if we’re HIV-positive or not.”

OraQuick delivers results in about 20 minutes in the privacy of a person’s home. Chain drugstores, including Duane Reade and CVS, carry the test for around $40.

“Now we’re saying, ‘You can have this test and you can do it in your own home, privately,'” Johnson said. “‘If you want people to be there or not, that’s up to you. You just need to know your status.’ It makes a difference, because I think more people will be willing to get tested. They’ll know their results, and if they are HIV-positive, there’s great information available that can get them to a doctor, including a 1-800 hotline. If they have questions, someone will be able to answer them.”

Magic Johnson: His Personal Mission

“When I announced 21 years ago, AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser told me on her dying bed that I had to become the face of this disease,” Johnson said at a presentation for Orasure Technologies. He added that endorsing OraQuick is just one of the ways he’s making good on his promise to Glaser, who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion she received while giving birth in 1981.

“She felt like the disease needed a face to raise awareness levels, and she wanted me to get out and educate people,” Johnson told the crowd. “I promised her that I’d go out and do it.”

Blacks & HIV

Despite making up just 13 percent of the population, African Americans bear the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S., accounting for nearly half of the estimated 1.2 million people living with the disease, nearly half of new HIV cases, and half of annual AIDS-related deaths, according to Phil Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute.

Organizations like the CDC have called for routine HIV screening as a way to reduce the stigma some associate with showing up at an HIV clinic, a proposal that was also made by members of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force earlier this year. If agreed upon, the recommendations will make HIV testing as standard a practice as checking cholesterol levels, fundamentally changing how the virus is detected and treated, according to experts.

Hispanics & HIV

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Hispanics who learn they are HIV positive progress to AIDS faster than any other racial or ethnic group. Forty-two percent of Hispanics diagnosed as HIV positive progress to AIDS within 12 months, compared to 34 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 35 percent of African-Americans.

In addition, the rate of new HIV infections among Hispanic women is more than four times that of white women and the rate of new HIV infections among Hispanic men is almost three times that of white men.

OraQuick Facts

OraQuick, which received approval by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year, produces results in 20 minutes and retails at pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, and online for approximately $40. The test, which has been used by health care providers for just over a decade, uses a mouth swab to detect antibodies to HIV-1 and HIV-2 in oral fluid. While it has been put through a battery of tests itself, the FDA cautioned that the test is not 100 percent accurate in identifying people with the virus.

In a trial conducted by test maker Orasure, OraQuick detected HIV in those carrying the virus only 92 percent of the time, but was 99.9 percent accurate in ruling out HIV in patients who are not carrying the disease.

That means the test could miss 1 in 12 HIV-infected people who use it, according to the FDA, but would incorrectly identify only one patient as having HIV for every 5,000 HIV-negative people tested.

An inaccurate reading can result if a person takes the test too close to their moment of incidence rather than after three to six months, the approximate time HIV takes to appear in the human body, experts say.


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Study: HPV Vaccine Does Not Lead To Increased Sex In Teen Girls

A teen girl sitting with her friends

Adolescent girls who get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine are no more likely to show signs they may be engaging in sexual activity than girls who do not get the vaccine, according to a new study that challenges a widely held belief.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus, and some strains of the virus can lead to oral and genital cancers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the HPV vaccine for girls and boys as young as age 11.

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Previous surveys have found that some parents are concerned their daughter may be more likely to engage in sexual activity if they receive the vaccine.

“Some parents are concerned that saying ‘yes’ to the HPV vaccine is also encouraging teenagers to say ‘yes’ to sex,” said Dr. Carol Ford, chief of the Craig Dalsimer division of adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The new findings, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, are the first clinical data to study the concern, and found that HPV vaccine does not lead to increased sexual activity among adolescent girls.

Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta followed electronic data of nearly 1,400 girls aged 11 and 12 between July 2006 and December 2010 to see whether they received at least one dose of the vaccine within the first year and whether they were later counseled about contraception, acquired a sexually transmitted disease or became pregnant.

More than a quarter of girls ages 15 to 17 report being sexually active, according to the CDC.

The nearly 500 girls who received at least one dose of the vaccine were no more likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, discuss contraception or become pregnant than the nearly 900 girls who did not get the vaccine, the study found.

“We couldn’t directly look at sexual activity, so we looked at external outcomes that would suggest sexual activity,” said Dr. Robert Bednarczyk, clinical investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Southeast, and lead author of the study.

The study is based on the assumption that girls who engage in sexual activity would seek care for a sexually transmitted disease, ask for contraception or become pregnant.

According to some experts, the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine are more concerning to many parents than whether their child will see it as a gateway to sexual activity. Still, the findings are reassuring to a smaller group of parents who may see this it as a reason to be apprehensive.

“Those of us who work with adolescents are happy to use this information in discussing the vaccine with parents,” said Dr. Eve Shapiro, a pediatrician in Tucson, Ariz.

In previous surveys, adolescent girls reported that they would not be more likely engage in sexual activity if they got the vaccine.

“We did a clinical validation of the self reported data,” said Bednarczyk. “This is reassuring to physicians and the parents that the concern doesn’t need to be there.”

The HPV vaccine does not protect against all strains of the virus or other types of sexual transmitted infections.

Still, adolescent girls should be counseled about the risks of having sex, regardless of whether they have received the vaccine, according to Dr. Linda Reid Chassiakos, director of the Klotz Student Health Center at California State University in Northridge.

“While the HPV vaccine is valuable, the provider needs to be explicit about its specific scope, and should discuss, at the age appropriate time, the risks of unprotected sexual activity,” she said.