Rapid HIV testing is slow to catch on with doctors
March 02 2005 12:00 AM ET
Although new rapid HIV tests can provide results in as little as 20 minutes--drastically cutting the days-long wait common with standard HIV antibody testing--few doctors are using the quicker tests, the Los Angeles Times reports. An American Academy of HIV Medicine survey of 300 doctors in 10 states found that only 5% of general practitioners were using the rapid tests. Most cited concerns over whether health insurance companies would pay for the newer tests instead of the standard blood tests. Doctors also cited time demands of training staff and counseling patients who test positive as reasons they were reluctant to use the rapid tests. However, most public clinics and emergency rooms are offering the rapid tests, according to the AAHIVM study.
"Ethically, you want to offer these things, and yet the other side of the coin is that we can't afford not to get reimbursed for them," Marcy Zwelling, a Long Beach, Calif., physician told the Times. The tests cost about $10 each. Doctors who use the rapid tests typically pay for the screenings themselves and hope health care companies will reimburse them. Traditional HIV antibody tests that are covered by health insurance companies send blood drawn from patients to company-approved labs for testing. Blood drawn through the rapid HIV antibody tests is screened in the physician's office, and results are available 20 minutes later.
Primary care doctors conduct about half of all HIV antibody tests given annually in the country, according to AAHIVM. About 10% of all U.S. adults are screened each year for HIV infection.