Remember your first HIV Test? Maybe it took two weeks for a result, for most of us it took 20 minutes. How would you feel if I told you, you could know your results in less than 60 seconds?  I remember my first HIV test, it took about twenty minutes to get the results back. I imagined calling every woman I had slept with unprotected  during that 20 minutes so they could feel my anxiety and we could all go through it together , how chivalrous right? I thought about my uncle who had passed from an AIDS related illness in 1999, how a HIV positive result would devastate my family.  I was a balloon empty of air in that chair. My lusts and passions had chained me tovain ambition and there I was 20 minutes away from news that could change my life forever. The only glimmer of gratitude I could muster was that it was only twenty minutes and not two weeks. So, after 20 minutes that timer went off, the nurse looked at me with the blankest of stares and told me I was HIV negative. She then scolded me about drinking alcohol because it lowers my inhibitions and seems to be the cause of all of my debaucherous excursions. I left the clinic feeling a sigh of relief, thanking God that I hadn’t met the same fate as my beloved uncle and pledging I’d never put myself at risk again.

Fast forward a few years, I was working as a medical case manager for people infected with HIV/AIDS. Part of my job was also administering the twenty minute OraQuick Rapid Response Test to shy, worried, and downright scared college students and young adults. I saw a lot of myself in them. Eyes swelling with regret, palms sweatier than the night they put themselves at risk. The OraQuick Test was the right test at the right time. A revolutionary product by OraSure Technologies that revolutionized the area of HIV testing. Despite our sexual escapades, twenty minutes was a godsend when compared to the two week or more threshold we had in the past. Personally Ithought this was it, twenty minutes was as good as it gets. Upon attending USCA 2013 in the mystique filled city of New Orleans a former co-worker said to me “Hey have you seen that new HIV test that  gives results in a minute”? I quickly said “no, wow, are you serious?” Needless to say I quickly went to comb the exhibition hall to find this new product.

I stumbled upon the BioLytical Laboratories table which was displaying their new product INSTI.  BioLyticals new INSTI test takes approximately 60 seconds for a reading, and is the fastest HIV diagnostic assay on the market. INSTI has broken the world record for most HIV tests performed in one day two years in a row and they are making another attempt this year to break their own record. Biolytical Laboratories Inc. is based in Richmond, BC, Canada and have been making and selling INSTI since 2006 all over the world. Though they have been around for the last seven years they were FDA approved in the US in 2010 but just got their CLIA Waiver in July 2012, making them available for Point of Care use, where most Rapid HIV testing is performed.

The truth is in the details, INSTI is a single-use HIV-1 Antibody Test, which means that it utilizes in vitro qualitative immunoassay for the detection of antibodies to Human Immunodeficiency VirusType 1 in human whole blood, finger stick blood, or plasma specimens. As with all rapid HIV tests, positive results are considered preliminary and must be confirmed before establishing a diagnosis of HIV infection. INSTI will onlyreact when the correct quantity of human blood is added, reducing user error that can lead to inaccurate results. Other rapid HIV tests will produce a control spot with any liquid.  The test is highly stable and does not require refrigeration or specialized storage.

While speaking with the INSTI marketing team and receiving an onsite example of the test I had to ask  why isn’t this test being advertised all over American TV stations and doctors offices,  and why has it taken me so long to find out about this unique and stress free innovation?

The question was answered easily by Emaleah Shackleton and Jennifer Brown of the marketing team by stating that AIDS Healthcare Foundation was the first to start to use the sixty second INSTI test on a worldwide basis. AHF which is a Californiabased NGO that has administered more than one million INSTI tests this year alone while spreading their wings in  India, Uganda, Estonia and Mexico! BioLytical’s  Emaleah Shackleton stated that she feels “we are steadily gaining traction as opinion leaders and early adopters in key jurisdictions are wow’d by the faster, better, more accurate, earlier detecting, cost-saving, labor-saving, anxiety-reducing technology”. Jennifer Brown also added that  “People are used to the 20 minute test and that INSTI is a paradigm shift.” She continued by saying that “INSTI allows caregivers to customize appointment duration based on risk assessment”. They also stated that they do not have a big marketing team or budget at this time for marketing and so word of mouth by satisfied customers are really fueling them. BioLytical is a small company and its marketing team literally consists of less than a handful of individuals who have been jet setting over the US to NGO’s and clinics marketing and showcasing this new innovation.

I conclude that the INSTI test is definitely a game changer. The idea of being able toknow results in 60 seconds will allow practitioners to test a larger group of people in testing events and on-site. The test is about half of the market-leader and “very competitive when it comes to price per test” according to BioLytical. I believe this to be a very important part in the success ofINSTI as NGO’s struggle with deflating grant and foundation funds. I personally believe that some clinics are holding out not only because of the issue of “change” but that there are efforts being made to have actual confirmatory tests onsite. Besides, after a preliminary positive those results must still be sent off to the lab for a Western Blot or some other confirmatory effort. This is also true for the OraQuick 20 minute test that is sold over-the-counter in the US.

INSTI should be a sigh of relief for us all. I have witnessed testing events become slowwith long lines because of the 20 minute test. Though OraQuick was revolutionary for its time, I believe its Insti’s time. Time for us to know our bodies, to better plan and achieve better health outcomes. As a heterosexual HIV negative male, I feel confident about being able to tell individuals that an HIV test can be fast and accurate. I wish Biolytical luck and hopefully they are able to expand their marketing efforts to make this the go-to product in the US.