President Bush on Friday announced that the Department of Health and Human Services has cleared the way for the expanded use of OraSure Technologies' OraQuick rapid HIV test, allowing health care workers to immediately begin using the test in more than 100,000 locations across the country. The HIV antibody test can produce results that are 99.6% accurate within 20 minutes. The test was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in November but was cleared for use in only 40,000 hospitals and clinics with laboratories. The decision by HHS will now permit its use in smaller outreach clinics and mobile testing sites. Bush said HHS "waived regulations so the test will soon be more readily available to doctors and public health facilities across the country. This waiver allows us to take this test where people need it most."
AIDS activists and health care providers praised the announcement, saying that expanding access to HIV antibody tests that provide quick results will encourage more people to get tested. "The elimination of the weeklong waiting period [for results from standard HIV antibody tests] will be the elimination of significant barriers to testing for many high-risk individuals," said Clint Trout, associate director for federal government affairs at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "Now that the tests are widely available to family doctors, emergency rooms, and public health testing and counseling programs, they will play a critical role in curtailing the spread of the epidemic."