U.S. High-Risk Communities ‘Cannot Afford To Ignore’ Rapid HIV Tests, New York Times Editorial Says
Although public health workers in the United States have "significantly slowed" the spread of HIV through the expansion of testing and treatment programs aimed at high-risk groups, such efforts "have a way to go in the inner cities," where prevalence rates for low-income, minority women "continue to soar," a New York Times editorial says. In such communities, HIV prevalence rates are increasing in part because many male injection drug users who are HIV-positive but unaware of their status continue to share needles. This is the population CDC had "in mind" when it issued its new HIV/AIDS prevention strategy in 2003, according to the Times (New York Times, 12/30/04). CDC in April 2003 unveiled new HIV/AIDS prevention guidelines aimed at making HIV testing a routine part of care in doctors' offices and clinics, instead of waiting for patients to specifically request HIV testing. The guidelines urged local health authorities to "make widespread use" of OraSure Technologies' OraQuick HIV test, which was approved by FDA in November 2002 and offers results that are 99.6% accurate within 20 minutes. President Bush in February 2003 announced that HHS had approved expanded availability for the test to more than 100,000 doctors' offices and public health clinics across the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/17/03). Although the "relatively inexpensive" rapid HIV tests "offer many advantages" -- including easier administration in community centers, homeless shelters and prisons -- many "high-risk communities are not paying heed," the editorial says. "With the rapid tests, HIV-positive people can get into treatment programs quickly and learn how to avoid infecting others," according to the Times. The United States "cannot afford to ignore this effective and inexpensive tool -- a rare thing in the fight against AIDS," the editorial says, concluding, "The CDC's advice should be followed, and the rapid tests deployed as widely as possible" (New York Times, 12/30/04).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.