New Hawaii law allows faster HIV testing
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Robbie Dingeman
A new state rule allows faster HIV testing by nonprofit organizations, according to the state Department of Health.
On June 27, Gov. Linda Lingle signed the approval of a change in state administrative rules that allows nonprofit organizations such as Life Foundation to perform rapid HIV testing. The change became effective Thursday.
In 2002, the federal government approved rapid testing, a simple oral swab test that allows the results of an HIV test to be given in about 20 minutes. That's a big improvement, according to the local Life Foundation, which backs the rule change as a way to help prevent the spread of AIDS.
Melanie Moore, communications director for the foundation, said the older methods of HIV testing require a one- to two-week wait for results. Because of this delay, she said, many people don't return to learn their status after being tested.
"They're scared; they don't want to know; sometimes we don't know why they don't come back," Moore said.
Moore said an estimated 3,000 people in Hawai'i are living with HIV.
She said an estimated one in four people with HIV don't know they are infected. That adds up to an estimated 250,000 people nationwide.
Moore said new advances in HIV testing are critical to successful treatment because many drugs treat HIV infection and AIDS-related illnesses. Prompt medical care may help delay the onset of AIDS and prevent some life-threatening conditions.
Life Foundation has been working closely with the state Health Department and has trained its staff members in the new procedures. They expect to start offering the faster test in September.
Moore said the public will be notified as soon as the new testing is available.
She said old testing is available — also free and anonymous — from the foundation. She said tests are done at its office at 677 Ala Moana, Suite 226. Outreach workers will meet people who can't or would prefer not to go there. "We do almost 700 HIV tests a year," she said. "We try to make testing as easy and accessible as possible."
Moore said the faster results have proved an incentive in other states. "More people are willing to get tested," she said.
Reach Robbie Dingeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.