New York Times Examines How Local Governments Often Must Decide Between Using Quick or Early Detection HIV Tests
June 6, 2005
The New York Times on Monday examined the "quandary" faced by local public health officials nationwide over whether to fund and promote an HIV test that provides quick results or one that is able to detect the virus in its earliest stages but does not provide near-immediate results. Until 2002, all HIV tests involved drawing blood and transporting the blood to laboratories, where it could be tested for HIV antibodies. The process took days or weeks, and many people failed to return to the clinics or health departments where they were tested to learn the results, according to the Times. In 2002, an HIV antibody test became available that provides initial results in about 20 minutes using only a drop of blood, and FDA in 2004 approved a rapid HIV test that does not require blood at all, instead involving an oral swab. Many state and local health agencies, including New York City and New York state, have funded and promoted the rapid tests. However, San Francisco and North Carolina instead have chosen to fund tests that examine blood for HIV itself, which usually can be detected within 10 days of transmission, compared with the three to four weeks it can take for antibodies to be detected, according to the Times. However, such tests are more expensive than the rapid antibody tests and take several days to produce results. HIV/AIDS experts say it would be ideal for both types of tests to be used simultaneously, but expenses and logistics make it impractical, and the choice between the tests is pulling specialists in opposing directions, the Times reports (Perez-Pena, New York Times, 6/6).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.