The California Office of AIDS on Monday announced that it will expand the availability of rapid HIV antibody testing in four state counties following positive results from pilot testing cites in San Diego, San Francisco, Alameda, Sonoma, and Long Beach, The Sacramento Bee reports. The free rapid tests, which can provide results in as little as 20 minutes, will be available by the end of January in Sacramento, Los Angeles, Fresno, and Orange counties. State officials hope the tests will be offered statewide by mid 2004.
"It is our hope that by using the rapid HIV test, we will be able to immediately offer people health care resources and assist them in making decisions that reduce the chance of transmitting HIV to others," state health director Diana Bonta told the Bee.
California doctors and AIDS activists have complained that the state has been too slow in rolling out rapid-testing initiatives. But health officials say the delays have been due to the state's strict HIV testing guidelines, among the most stringent in the nation, and the need to implement new testing procedures designed for the rapid tests. In February, President Bush announced a plan to expand the availability of the rapid tests to more than 100,000 doctors' offices and health clinics nationwide.