October 28, 1998
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Washington, D.C. -- Two new studies released today by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) demonstrate the importance of anonymous testing as a tool for getting people at risk for HIV into testing and counseling so they can protect their health and the health of others. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University of California at San Francisco in the October 28 issue of JAMA fortify previous studies demonstrating that anonymous voluntary testing is a critical component of state testing strategies.
"Our best hope for slowing the epidemic is to accelerate voluntary testing," said Daniel Zingale, executive director of AIDS Action. "Everyone at risk for HIV infection should be tested often, voluntarily and confidentially."
It is estimated that there are approximately 300,000 people in the United States who are HIV positive yet unaware of their status. AIDS Action is deeply concerned about the eleven states that bar anonymous testing and instead require reporting of the names of all individuals who test positive. Such systems discourage individuals from seeking testing and betray the needs of our public health system.
"HIV testing must be safe, swift and simple," added Zingale. "Improved availability of anonymous testing is at the core of an effective and reinvigorated HIV prevention campaign."
Both the CDC and UCSF studies examined different forms of testing in various states to determine how testing methods affect when an individual seeks testing. While the studies were different in scope and purpose, both found that access to anonymous testing is an important component of our state testing systems.
As part of a broad HIV prevention initiative, The Virtual Vaccine, AIDS Action called for an ambitious new testing campaign. Among the proposals is the implementation of rapid testing, where results are available in 10 minutes; the current generation of tests require a one week wait period for results. Rapid testing would eliminate the high rate of patient return failure for result appointments. Under current tests, results are not available for at least a week. According to the CDC, 700,000 people who are tested each year do not return for their results.
"There are 300,000 Americans who are HIV-positive yet unaware of this status," said Zingale. "America needs an ambitious plan that gets those at risk into testing, counseling and treatment so they can protect their own health and the health of others."