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      Over the Counter HIV Test

      With just a swab of the gums and a 20 minute wait, trained professionals at the three Valley Aids Council clinics, can tell a person if they are HIV positive or not. Education Coordinator Oscar Lopez said the when done by a trained professional, the simple saliva swab is 99.8 percent accurate.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently decided that people should be able to test themselves in the comfort of their own home, approving the first over the counter HIV test kit.

      "What you do is rub (the) little tip right on the gums of your mouth and it collects anti-bodies that your body creates to fight HIV, Lopez said.

      The test kit will be available at pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens and Wal-Mart, for an estimated cost of about $60. Lopez said the initiative is ground breaking, but not perfect.

      "There's a 1 out of 12 chance that you will get a false negative and that means that you may be positive but you won TMt know it, Lopez said. If you go 3, 6 months or a year before you (test yourself) again, or come into a clinic to get it done, that means that's a year that you possibly could've infected other people. That's also a year that you went without any medication."

      Much like over the counter pregnancy tests, Lopez said, the HIV test shows one line for negative and two lines for positive. He adds that the FDA TMs decision to sell the kits at neighborhood pharmacies, is also a step towards breaking the silence or misinformation about HIV and AIDS - something prevalent in Valley communities.

      "We're hoping that the easier access to HIV testing will help reduce the stigma, but the problem here in the Valley is that we still don TMt talk about it, Lopez said. Will people have the courage to go up to a pharmacist to ask for the HIV test, I don TMt know."

      Lopez recommends that people who test themselves with the home kit, retest within three months to ensure it was an accurate reading.