Lingle vows to push for faster HIV test
Life Foundation asks why the state lags in on-the-spot testing
GOV. Linda Lingle, attending Life Foundation's Open House in her first public appearance after re-election, said she would make sure efforts move ahead to establish rapid, on-the-spot HIV testing.
HIV/AIDS advocates have been asking for months why it is taking so long for Hawaii to adopt the rapid testing, which most states already have.
Peter Whiticar, chief of the STD/AIDS Prevention Branch in the state Health Department, told the Star-Bulletin in June the branch wanted the rapid test as soon as possible for HIV prevention.
However, adoption of the new procedure has been delayed because of the administrative rules process, and concerns about requirements for laboratories, Whiticar and other health officials said.
The current HIV test involves collecting a blood specimen for laboratory analysis, and results aren't available for one to two weeks.
HIV/AIDS prevention advocates favor a 20-minute OraQuick test that uses a swab to collect oral fluids and provides on-the-spot preliminary results and counseling.
LIFE Foundation has been working with the Department of Health for several years to approve the rapid testing method. Many people don't return to get results of the blood test, the foundation has pointed out, which hampers efforts to stop the spread of the disease.
"The work to ensure Rapid HIV Testing moves forward is something I have only recently become aware of," Lingle said at the Open House on Thursday, according to a foundation news release. "You have my commitment to make sure this occurs. Now that I am aware, I will pay closer attention and put in a call to the attorney general about this issue."
The open house was held to celebrate the foundation's nearly renovated offices at 677 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 226, and to publicly announce its services.
When renewing its lease, the building's owners awarded the foundation funding for renovations to provide a more private waiting room for clients, a new lobby and improved HIV testing and support-group rooms.
"Mahalo to all of you who are involved with the Life Foundation," Lingle said. "You have been effective in preventing HIV and AIDS."
She urged people not to become complacent with advancements in the field. "People living with HIV and AIDS are living with more than a disease," she said. "They are often living with discrimination, stigma and shame."
Paul Groesbeck, Life Foundation's executive director, thanked the governor for showing her support for AIDS services and prevention.
"By you being here, it says that it's OK for anyone to be here and it's OK to be visibly involved in the fight against AIDS," he said.
As Hawaii's oldest and largest AIDS organization, Life Foundation provides services to about 700 HIV-positive men, women and children and operates the state's most comprehensive HIV prevention program.
The foundation estimates that 2,600 to 2,900 people in Hawaii are living with HIV/AIDS, and many don't know it.