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LOS ANGELES -- AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which offers free HIV/AIDS treatment at its 14 clinics in California and Florida and is the operator of the largest free alternative HIV testing program in California, today urged officials at the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) to quickly approve use of a rapid HIV antibody test for home use. An advisory panel for the FDA is set to consider a request from OraSure Technologies in early November to expand use of its OraQuick testing technology for individual home use; the rapid HIV antibody test, which has been shown to be safe, effective and easy to use, is currently only sold to doctors and clinics such as AHF's testing program.
"We have used OraSure's rapid HIV testing kits in our own alternative, community-based testing programs here in Los Angeles over the past few years and know it to be a safe and reliable testing tool," said Karen Mall, director of AHF's prevention and testing programs. "With HIV medical care and anti-retroviral treatments now available to a large portion of the American population at little or no cost, the stigma and fears around testing from years ago are just not as heightened anymore. To truly break the chain of infection, it is crucial that individuals who are HIV positive know their status -- and whether it is either from a clinic or home test shouldn't really matter -- so they can seek out medical care if they so choose and utilize prevention methods to reduce the risks of passing the virus on to others. We strongly encourage the FDA to fast track approval of these rapid HIV testing kits for individual home use to complement the existing network of HIV
counseling, testing and prevention efforts aimed at stopping the spread of the virus and helping HIV-positive persons access treatment."
According to a news report on the pending FDA evaluation of rapid testing in today's Kaiser Family Foundation Daily HIV/AIDS Report, "... about one-quarter of the nearly 1 million HIV-positive people in the U.S. do not know they are infected, and between 40 percent to 45 percent of people who test HIV-positive do so less than one year before developing AIDS." The news item also noted that, "... about 8,000 people who test positive for HIV annually at health clinics never return to pick up their results ...," statistics and trends that the widespread availability of home testing would likely alleviate.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation currently provides more than 15,000 free HIV tests each year through its innovative testing program via testing sites at 5 AHF Out of the Closet thrift store locations throughout Southern California. In addition, AHF offers testing in the L.A. County Jail System, in commercial sex venues in greater Los Angeles, and from a mobile testing van.
Source: AIDS Healthcare Foundation