June 26, 2006
Tomorrow marks National AIDS Awareness Day, and since so few people get tested, officials are trying new ways to make it easier for people to find out if they carry the disease.
It's estimated that just in Virginia over 27,000 people are infected with HIV and an even bigger problem is that close to one-third of those people don't even know it. But now medical companies and local groups are trying to change that.
A new way of getting tested for HIV, the disease that causes AIDS, is now being used. The test Ora-Quick is a simple and painless method of testing that some health officials hope will encourage more people to get tested before it's too late.
"When it's caught early, people can actually go onto medication before they ever have symptoms of aids or side effects of aids and that means really that the prognosis is very good," Nick Mattson, a health counselor, said.
Ora-Quick requires a simple cotton swab of the mouth and has been shown to be more than 99% accurate. The test gives results in only 20 minutes and some aids-support centers in Charlottesville are already using this method.
"People need to be able to take the test in a way that ensures that they're going to get reliable results and that they're going to get the services they need," Kathy Baker said. She is the executive director of AIDS/HIV Services Group.
However, the test is only a time saver if it comes back negative. A second, more in-depth test is needed if the result is positive.
"If they're positive, they would still have to do the more traditional test that takes about 2 weeks and that's because we're doing a separate type of test on the specimen to confirm that the person really is HIV positive," Mattson said.
Ora-sure, the manufacturing company of Ora-quick is hoping to get the kits into drugstores so they can be taken at home in privacy. The tests would be around $20 and be found next to the at-home pregnancy tests. For now, they are only available in public health centers and hospitals.
For more information about drug testing, you can go to www.aidsservices.org.