Testing for HIV is something that many of us will have done at least once in our lifetime. What many of you might not know is how costly these tests actually are and how this has made it nearly impossible impoverished areas to receive the proper testing. This is why the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has worked hard to create the world’s first battery-operated HIV testing device. The amazing thing about this device is that it is the size of an iPod and could easily be used anywhere around the world.
Hospitals use large machines to conduct their HIV testing. PARC new how impossible it was to transport these machines everywhere so they had to come up with something much more portable. Their HIV testing device is incredibly unique because of it’s rather small size. It is also capable of returning test results in less than 10 minutes while costing far less. The reason it costs less because it uses far less energy than a large machine does.
How the device works is quite interesting. It works by measuring the reflection of a laser beam off a small sample of your blood. This blood will then be analyzed on the density of the T-white blood cells. These type of blood cells are a key indicator for the presence of HIV. The more dense these blood cells are will result in the laser scatter erratically. And there you have it: a simple way of testing someone’s blood to see if they have HIV or not.
It is the laser method that makes this device incredibly cheap. Estimates released by PARC put the cost of building one of these iPod shaped testing units at $250 to build. The organization hopes that the device being simple and easy to use will allow doctors in impoverished areas the opportunity to conduct the tests far more often at a cheaper cost. What many of you do not know is that doctors in these type of areas often diagnose patients without the use of any of these advanced tests. The presence of this device will allow them to more accurately diagnose a patient sooner than later.
There are several other companies around the world working hard to offer smaller HIV testing devices as well. However, it appears the PARC is the closest to making this a reality with the unveiling of their prototype and stating that it is ready to be mass produced. One company in 2006 came close to releasing a similar device but discovered a lot of flaws with their handheld units. Let us hope that the results stay positive for PARC because the world needs something like this.
- Steven A. Mottor, My Own Review, 2010.
- PARC, www.parc.com, 2010