Policy & Politics
California Governor Signs Leno's HIV Rapid Test Bill
February 5, 2004
Although AIDS activists are waging an intense battle against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget cuts to AIDS programs, they praised him for signing an HIV rapid testing bill into law. The bill, AB685, reduces hurdles to training HIV counselors and speeds deployment of a test that yields results in less than an hour. An urgency bill, it became law the minute the governor signed it on Jan. 21.Adapted from:
Introduced by Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the bill allows HIV counselors to become certified to administer the rapid HIV test by passing a state-approved literacy protocol, without requiring them to have a high school diploma or GED. Health officials said the change allows HIV counseling by persons such as former intravenous drug users and sex workers who may not have finished formal schooling but are best-equipped to reach underserved high-risk populations.
The bill also declares the intent of the Department of Health Service's Office of AIDS to develop a less costly, streamlined curriculum to train HIV counselors, paring training days down from eight to four.
The rapid test allows patients to get their results on-site in one visit, thereby eliminating the problem of people not returning for their results. Statewide, an estimated 30 percent of people who test positive for HIV never return to find out. In San Francisco, roughly 15 percent of people do not return for results.
Health officials estimate that in addition to the more than 15,000 individuals in the city under care for HIV, 10,000 more are not receiving treatment. They estimate 5,000 San Franciscans are HIV-positive but do not know it.
Steve Tierney, the city's director of HIV prevention, said the Health Department hopes to have all eligible sites trained in using the rapid test over the next five months.
Bay Area Reporter
01.29.04; Matthew S. Bajko