Here is a sick idea for Reality TV: take ten gay men various ages and races that are all HIV negative, but wish to receive the “gift” of HIV and see who can get infected first! The lurid appeal of this could be a ratings smash: sex, drugs and rock and roll, on a level straight people only dream about. To make it really prime time worthy we could throw in the new rapid HIV test, soon to be available, that tells you in just 20 minutes whether or not you have actually received the “gift” or not! This would make HIV testing on live TV something that could easily fit into an hour long format.
The new rapid test is not totally Reality TV friendly though since it does not detect very recent infection but can tell you in twenty minutes whether or not that night of debauchery a few months, or episodes, back resulted in your receiving “the gift”. Obviously this could then be stretched over an entire season of shows, since it takes weeks to months to produce enough antibodies to test positive, rapid test or slow test.
The problem with this idea of course would be finding ten gay men to go along with the insanity; at least I hope that would be a problem. Despite the hysterical and inaccurate piece on “Bug Chasing” in the February 6th, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone magazine the number of gay men actively trying to get HIV is very small. Unfortunately, the number getting infected is not that small. I have to say in all my years of dealing with many hundreds of gay men who had just found out they were HIV positive, not a single one was jumping with joy at having received “the gift”. For example, the two guys in their early twenties I saw this past week who had just gotten news of their positive tests were in tears and not tears of joy!
I am eagerly anticipating the availability of the new rapid HIV test. This rapid test presents the first new possibilities in HIV testing and prevention to come along in many years. In one study the overwhelming number, something like 98%, seeking HIV testing would prefer to get results in 20 minutes rather than wait anxiously for two or more weeks. The concerns about the rapid test are minimal relative to the potential benefits and the big problem of people testing positive and not returning for results will no longer be an issue.
In a paper presented at the recent International Retroviral Conference in Boston what has long thought to be the case was confirmed and that is that people with HIV are most infectious (likely to infect someone else) in the first few weeks after getting infected themselves and then again in the more advanced stages of the illness. Many of the people testing positive these days are recently infected and the sooner you actually get them the positive results the better. The majority of folks who know they have HIV then act responsibly to not pass it on to someone else.