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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Lehigh Valley Hospital Has Quick Test for HIV
Ann Wlazelek
October 29, 2003
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.