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Commentary & Opinion

New York City's Refusal to Use Viral Load Testing for HIV Diagnosis Will Not Prevent Infections, Opinion Piece Says

July 18, 2005

Despite the availability of a "reliable method to detect [the] initial phase" of HIV infection -- which is when the amount of HIV in the bloodstream, or the viral load, is highest -- most health care providers and the New York City government do not use or promote viral load testing for HIV diagnosis, Paul Galatowitsch, a health care consultant; Antonio Urbina, director of clinical HIV/AIDS education at Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers in New York City; and Timothy Law Snyder, a math and computer science professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, write in a New York Times opinion piece. Unlike the standard HIV test -- which detects antibodies to the virus that develop weeks or sometimes months after infection -- the viral load test can detect the virus's presence within a week after infection, the authors say. The test "is the most useful in stopping the spread of" HIV because the first few weeks of infection "correspond to the period of highest infectivity," according to the authors. Although viral load testing is expensive -- costing $200 to $300 per test -- especially when compared with antibody testing, which costs about $5 per test, using the viral load test on pooled blood samples that tested HIV-negative on antibody tests would save the city $1.8 million to $21.6 million annually, identify an additional 24 to 36 cases of acute HIV infection and avert six to 72 HIV transmissions each year, the authors say. "The decision not to combine rapid HIV antibody and viral load testing will incur needless tragedies for many New Yorkers and cost the city millions of dollars in additional health care expenses," the authors conclude (Galatowitsch et al., New York Times, 7/17).

Back to other news for July 18, 2005


Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2004 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.



  
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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.
 
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