January 11, 2007
A clerical error by a Santa Clara County worker has caused public health clinics to temporarily halt rapid HIV testing. County spokesperson Joy Alexiou said the tests will be unavailable in the facilities for up to two months while the bureaucratic mix-up is resolved.
California health officials must certify the county's program to offer rapid testing. The worker had faxed the required information to the state but failed to follow up with a hard copy, said Alexiou. "It's truly unfortunate that this happened," she said.
The county's ambitious expansion of its HIV testing program will suffer while the matter is worked out. As part of that effort, county health workers have collaborated with local nonprofit agencies to offer rapid tests to injection drug users, sex workers and others at high risk for HIV/AIDS. County health officials estimate as many as 900 Santa Clara residents could be HIV-infected but not know it.
Under the program, which was instituted last February, public health employees have tested more than 1,200 people at two San Jose sites. Just one of those tests was positive, said Alexiou. Around 80 percent of people tested chose the rapid test over traditional tests, which can take days to deliver results.
Santa Clara County officials are referring people who want rapid tests to public clinics in Fremont and Santa Cruz. The test is also offered at private hospitals and clinics, though a fee is usually charged and the test is typically not offered anonymously.
For information on other clinics offering rapid HIV testing, telephone the Crane Center at 408-792-3729.