Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) (10.27.03) - Wednesday, October
Free, rapid-result finger-stick blood tests for HIV are being
offered for the first time at Lehigh Valley Hospital in
Allentown, Pa., as part of a state pilot program for
diagnosing and counseling patients in the same visit. The
hospital's AIDS activities office is one of three sites the
state Department of Health chose to administer the 20-minute
OraQuick Rapid HIV-1 antibody test. The health department
bought 1,000 tests at $12 apiece for the pilot study. The
other two Pennsylvania sites administering the test are the
Berks AIDS Network in Reading and the Delaware County State
Health Center in Chester.
If considered effective, the state could make the rapid test
available at other government-funded community testing sites.
An advantage is that people get preliminary results right
away, as opposed to standard HIV tests that require 10-14 days
until results are known.
"Getting results of the blood test in less than an hour means
we can provide vital information to persons who require
immediate counseling on safe practices to avoid spreading the
infection," said Dr. Tim Friel, an infectious disease
specialist who works with the LVH AIDS activities office.
Nationwide, roughly one-third of Americans tested for HIV
never return for results. Pennsylvania's return rate -
excluding Philadelphia, where tests are paid for by CDC - is
better, with 93 percent to 95 percent of HIV-positive people
returning a week or two later for results and counseling.
Most of Pennsylvania's 130 HIV-only test centers and 125 STD
clinics offer confidential rather than anonymous testing,
according to Tom DeMelfi, manager of the state's HIV
counseling and testing program. The individual is asked for a
name, address, and phone number that are kept private. That
way, health care providers can reach people with their test
results and initiate treatment.