Seattle rapid HIV testing program successful
Health officials in Seattle-King County, Wash., say a program started in May that offers OraQuick Rapid HIV Antibody Tests to gay men in places where they meet, including sex clubs and bathhouses, has been very successful, the Chicago Tribune reports. More than 550 men at a single bathhouse in Seattle's Capitol Hill district took the rapid tests, with 15 men learning that they were infected with the virus. The testing program, started four months after the Food and Drug Administration approved the rapid HIV test kits, targets at-risk adults, including gay men, intravenous-drug users, and sex workers, at various outreach sites around the city in an effort to reach these individuals in their communities.
Health officials say they hope to expand the testing program to reach even more Seattle-area residents with the tests, which can provide results in about 20 minutes instead of the several days required by standard HIV antibody tests. Because of the long wait, about one third of all people taking standard HIV tests never return for their results, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other cities encouraged by the Seattle program's results, including Chicago, are also beginning to offer rapid HIV testing through various outreach programs. Chicago health officials have already approved rapid testing for two city health clinics, six community-based sites, and through a mobile van that participates in such events as the city's annual gay pride parade.