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Quick HIV Test Helps More People Find Out Their Status: Study

June 23, 2006

A 2003 CDC initiative in which the agency distributed nearly 800,000 rapid HIV tests to community groups and prisons helped bring in many more people for testing than usual, a new report said.

The findings, published Thursday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, validate a widely held assumption -- that people are more apt to seek testing if there is a quick and easy method, such as OraSure's saliva test for HIV, CDC said. If the test results are available within a half hour, people are more likely to wait for them than they are to return for results a week or two later, as necessary for conventional blood tests. Studies show nearly one-third of people who undergo conventional HIV testing never return for their results.

CDC said at the end of 2003, about one-quarter of the estimated 1 million Americans with HIV had not had their infections diagnosed. That same year, CDC began distributing rapid tests to 230 organizations in 21 states and Washington, D.C. Of the 372,960 tests administered, 1.2 percent (4,650) of them were HIV-positive.

"The results suggest that [the program] helped scale up rapid HIV-testing programs in the United States and enabled diagnosis of HIV in persons who might not have had their infections diagnosed otherwise," the report said.

"Although follow-up client data were not collected on the 4,650 confirmed HIV-positive test results, previous research has indicated that the majority of persons who learn they are infected with HIV take steps to prevent transmission to others and obtain health care that can prolong the quality and duration of their lives," CDC said.

The report, "Rapid HIV Test Distribution -- United States, 2003-2005," was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (2006;55(24):673-676).

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