Oahu clinics roll out rapid HIV test
The tests provide results in 20 minutes and will be more available as facilities add staff
The Life Foundation is offering rapid HIV testing -- providing results in about 20 minutes -- at its Oahu offices and other sites.
However, the new tests still are in a pilot stage in state Health Department clinics, mostly because of staffing issues, said Peter Whiticar, STD/AIDS Prevention Branch chief.
He said the OraQuick test is being done to a limited degree at the Diamond Head Clinic and will be offered there "when we get staffing up."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent people here to assist with training of DOH and Life Foundation staff, and the DOH trainer trained foundation staff, Whiticar said. "The main thing is we have trained trainers so we have capacity in the state to train other people."
The OraQuick test uses a simple oral swab or finger prick rather than collecting a blood specimen and waiting one or two weeks for results from a laboratory.
Gov. Linda Lingle approved a change in the Hawaii administrative rules in June that allowed nonprofit organizations such as the Life Foundation to perform the rapid testing.
Life Foundation ran a pilot program last month in its offices, using the tests for drop-in and regular clients, and is now providing the tests for the public.
The foundation has a comprehensive HIV prevention program, with free testing and counseling, and it provides services to more than 700 men, women and children infected with HIV.
Whiticar said the Health Department has had "an excellent working relationship with the Life Foundation," which expects to offer rapid testing from a van to reach people who would not go to a clinic.
Learning the results right away could help prevent people who are positive from spreading the virus, health officials have said.
The foundation said about 25 percent of people it has tested with blood specimens have not returned for results because of the one- to two-week delay for a laboratory analysis. If they are not aware they are positive, they could be exposing others.
Whiticar said the DOH "would like to get options open with rapid testing," but it wants to make sure the procedures are working properly. The agency also is looking at whether the rapid test would be appropriate and cost-effective on the neighbor islands, he said.
Testing with blood samples has a significant advantage because it gives confirmed results, he said. The tests also can be used to diagnose hepatitis C and syphilis, he said, "so there are advantages for specific populations for doing it a more traditional way."
A blood test also is needed to confirm a positive result if an OraQuick test indicates the person is positive.
Life Foundation has sought changes in state administrative rules since the Food and Drug Administration approved the rapid test in 2002.
"With an estimated one out of four HIV-positive individuals in the United States unaware of their status, new HIV testing methods are critical to successful prevention efforts," the foundation said.
For more information about HIV testing, call Life Foundation at 521-AIDS (521-2437) or see www.lifefoundation.org. Drop-in testing is available at the foundation, 677 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 226, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is also available after hours by appointment.