State Regulations Delay Implementation of Rapid HIV Test, HIV/AIDS Advocates, Public Health Officials Say
California's "stringent" regulations for HIV/AIDS testing have led to a slower-than-expected implementation of the rapid HIV test, according to some HIV/AIDS advocates and public health officials, the Los Angeles Times reports. The test requires a blood sample from a finger prick and allows individuals to be tested and learn their HIV status in one visit. The rapid test is expected to be available at community social service organizations, mobile health clinics and on-site locations, such as bathhouses, where clientele are determined to be at higher risk for contracting HIV/AIDS. However, the Times reports that a state pilot program, which was to have been introduced at 11 sites in May, has begun at only four locations because many of the testing sites do not have proper measures in place to ensure the test's safety and accuracy. A recent Los Angeles County proposal for 26 testing sites was delayed for several weeks because Department of Health Services officials were unsure of the application's validity. The application was approved, but it could still be months before counselors at the 26 sites are trained to administer the test, according to the Times. Health officials attribute the delays to California regulations that require people who administer blood tests to have a minimum education of a high school diploma and go through more extensive training than required under federal law. Further, many HIV counselors in the state are used to administering oral swab tests and are unfamiliar with state and federal laws about blood testing.
"It's been a little confusing figuring out how this test fits in with our current system and all the rules that surround it," Deanna Sykes, who has overseen the implementation of the rapid HIV test for the state Office of AIDS, said. Karen Mall, director of prevention services for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said that "many people had hoped this [transition] would go a bit more smoothly, especially considering how long we've waited for this to arrive." The Times reports that AIDS activists have said laboratories that would lose revenue from the implementation of the rapid test pressured the state to delay implementation of the pilot program. State officials deny that allegation and say that they are working to process site applications more quickly to make the rapid test available at 700 locations by next summer. "In the big picture, we're dealing with this as quickly and efficiently as we can," Paul Kimsey, assistant director of DHS' laboratory field services office, said. In addition, the Legislature early next year is expected to consider a bill that would condense some of the training into one day to reduce training costs (Costello, Los Angeles Times, 10/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.