CDC Announces Distribution of 250,000 OraSure Quick Tests; Organizations Mark National HIV Testing Day
The CDC yesterday announced that it will contract with OraSure Technologies, maker of the 20-minute, rapid HIV test OraQuick, to purchase 250,000 of the quick test kits and distribute them to every state health department in the country, Reuters reports (Fox, Reuters, 6/26). The announcement preceded the observance today of the 9th annual National HIV Testing Day, which is designed to increase awareness of the disease and encourage individuals to be tested for the virus. The day was first declared in 1995 by the National Association of People With AIDS. More than 10,000 groups, health departments and clinics throughout the country are participating in the event, the theme of which is "Take the Test, Take Control." OraSure announced on Tuesday that it would donate its OraQuick test to numerous locations throughout the country in honor of the day. In February, President Bush announced a plan to expand the availability of the test to more than 100,000 doctors' offices and public health clinics (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/26). Speaking at a news conference yesterday to announce the contract, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said, "On a day such as National HIV Testing Day, it is particularly important to recognize the need for increased vigilance against the spread of HIV." He added, "With this test, people will be able to more easily and efficiently screen for HIV, which will help prevent those infected from passing the virus to others and allow them to more effectively treat their disease" (OraSure release, 6/26).
Minorities, 'Less Educated' Individuals Less Likely To Be Tested Early
Blacks, Hispanics, heterosexuals and people with less education are the least likely to be tested for HIV "early on," according to a CDC study published in the June 27 issue of the agency's Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, Reuters Health reports. CDC epidemiologist Dr. Eyasu Teshale and colleagues examined data from interviews conducted at 16 U.S. sites (Reuters Health, 6/26). Between May 2000 and February 2003, researchers compared 1,573 participants who were tested early in the course of HIV disease, or "early testers," to 1,877 participants who were tested late in the course of HIV disease, or "late testers." Researchers found that late testers were significantly more likely to be between the ages of 18 and 29, black or Hispanic, to have been exposed to HIV through heterosexual contact, to have high school or less education or to have previously tested negative for HIV before their first positive HIV test (Teshale et al, MMWR, 6/27). Researchers also found that late testers were most likely to be tested because of symptoms of illness, while early testers sought the test because they "felt they were at risk," Reuters Health reports. Teshale said that the groups identified in the study should be targeted for education about the importance of HIV testing, adding, "We need to educate and inform people, especially those that are at risk for HIV infection, that the test is available both confidentially and anonymously" (Reuters Health, 6/26).
National HIV Testing Day
In observance of National HIV Testing Day, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said, "This annual observance is an invaluable opportunity for people to get the information they need to take control of their health and their lives. HIV testing is important because early detection of the disease allows for early treatment, which can both prolong and improve quality of life" (HHS release, 6/26). AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein said, "This HIV Testing Day offers us all a chance to work together ... on this important national community service effort" (AHF release, 6/26). Kate Carr, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, said, "Testing is a crucial step in gaining appropriate treatment and preventing mother-to-child transmission of the virus. By getting tested now, all Americans, including women of childbearing age, can safeguard their own health and potentially save the life of a child" (Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation release, 6/26). In addition, Spanish-language television broadcast company Univision and the Kaiser Family Foundation will begin a public awareness campaign through Univision's Enterate! program to encourage Latinos to be tested for HIV through the network, public service announcements and free print and online resources (Kaiser Family Foundation release). Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the release.
Several newspapers have published editorials and opinion pieces reacting to National HIV Testing Day. Summaries appear below:
- Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: The "sooner you determine your HIV/AIDS status, the sooner you will be able to take control of your health and your life," a Sun-Sentinel editorial states. People can "play the blame game," but the "reality is the disease has a continuing and growing hold on every age group and all ethnic and racial backgrounds," the editorial says, noting that Florida's AIDS prevalence rate is second only to New York state's (Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 6/27).
- L. Natalie Carroll, USA Today: The medical community must "become more active in offering patients voluntary HIV testing and the services that accompany it," Carroll, president of the National Medical Association, says in a USA Today opinion piece. Carroll adds that testing is especially important for African Americans and other minorities, who are at the greatest risk of having HIV (Carroll, USA Today, 6/27).
The following broadcast programs included coverage of National HIV Testing Day:
- CNN's "American Morning": The segment reports on the OraQuick test (Gupta, "American Morning," CNN, 6/26). The full transcript of the segment is available online.
- NPR's "Tavis Smiley Show": The program includes a discussion with an HIV-positive mother of four (Smiley, "Tavis Smiley Show," NPR, 6/27). The full segment will be available online after noon ET.
- WAMU's "WAMU News": The program reports on the distribution of the OraQuick test at the Washington, D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Clinic (Marshall, "WAMU News," WAMU, 6/27). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.