More May Learn of HIV Status, Thanks to New Rapid Test
June 25, 2003
Of the 2.1 million people who were given publicly funded HIV tests in the United States in 2000, CDC estimates that 30 percent of those who tested positive -- approximately 18,000 people -- did not return for their results. Neither did 40 percent of those testing negative. Public health officials and health care providers hope the OraQuick test will play a major role in reducing those percentages -- thereby preventing HIV infections and getting those infected into treatment.Adapted from:
OraQuick is a new blood test to determine the presence of HIV antibodies in the bloodstream. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2002 and soon to be widely used, OraQuick gives results in 20 minutes. Most current HIV tests, including OraQuick's older sibling OraSure, require a wait of one to two weeks for results, as well as a follow-up appointment to review them.
Since 1997, OraSure has been the standard test used by Washington's Whitman-Walker Clinic. Starting Friday, Whitman-Walker will begin a three-month pilot program for OraQuick at the Elizabeth Taylor Center, located at 14th and R streets NW. The test will be available to walk-ins; the clinic is prepared to perform up to 200 tests. For the remainder of the pilot, the test will be available only by appointment. OraSure will remain a part of the clinic's testing battery; clients will be given a choice between the two tests.
Some health workers are worried that the expedited process will not give them time to adequately counsel clients. But Robert Janssen, director of surveillance and epidemiology in CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, believes that "rapid test counseling is as effective as routine pretest and post-test counseling in setting out a plan to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV infection." "The vast majority of people who learn they are infected reduce risky behavior. ... This big change in testing will help keep negatives negative and help us work with positives to keep [other] people negative," Janssen said.
06.24.03; Matt McMillen