The FDA made a huge leap toward fighting AIDS with the approval of the first over-the-counter rapid HIV test with near-instantaneous results.

Starting in October, people who might otherwise not get tested for fear of stigma or white coats will have the option to learn about their health in the privacy of their home, with results delivered in 20 to 40 minutes.

The self-administered OraQuick test detects the presence of HIV in saliva using a mouth swab. It should be available in 30,000 pharmacies, grocery stores and online retailers this fall, an availability that stands as another milestone and tool in treatment.

About 50,000 Americans are infected with HIV each year; about 20 percent of the 1.2 million Americans with HIV do not know they have the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. These numbers make the need for accessible testing all the more apparent.

The FDA has been considering the mouth swab test since 2005. It is unfortunate it took this long when the technology has been available for years.

OraSure Technologies representatives have yet to announce a price for the test, but said it will be under $60, so as not to deter high-risk people who may want to take multiple tests a year. The cost also will cover a 24-hour toll-free call center for questions, counseling and medical referrals.

In the meantime and in the future, the same rules apply: Practice safe sex and do not share needles if you use drugs. Get tested if you may have been exposed — knowledge truly is power when it comes to your health. Though the OraQuick test is a remarkable development for diagnosis, what we really need is to prevent the disease from taking hold in the first place.

— The Courier-Journal,

Louisville, Ky., July 5

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