Oakland became the first city in the country to use new rapid HIV test, when mobile health vans offered the test free to the public last weekend at the Art and Soul Festival.
Festivalgoers lined up over the weekend to take the new INSTI HIV-1 Antibody test. Health workers in vans operated by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) were able to provide accurate results in as little as 60 seconds.
The test has been widely used in Canada and other countries for over six years but never before administered in the U.S.
“We did it, we made history, and had a wonderful time making it,” said Vashon Huff, who serves on the on the advisory board of Get Screened Oakland, a mayoral public health initiative.
The organization is designed to increase the number of Oakland residents who know their HIV status and are connected to the care they need.
“It was awesome,” said Adrianne McCall, HIV/AIDS Regional Resource Coordinator with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who said that at times as many as 100 people were waiting to get tested.
Public HIV testing has a number of positive health results, experts say. Creating free testing opportunities reduces stigma and promotes awareness and the importance of routine testing.
In addition, the speed of obtaining results from the new test lowers the anxiety that the wait time often produces.
According Huff, one of the people who was tested during the festival turned out to be HIV positive. “Although it is a new case, it proves that our model works,” she said.
The kit is simple to use. The person being tested must perform a finger stick similar to testing sugar levels for diabetes. Then, add the blood to solutions, which in three steps gives results in less than 60 seconds.
One criticism of the expedited test is that it cuts down the likelihood that a person who tests positive will find counseling. But test counselor Braunz Courtney, who has been an AIDS/HIV counselor for years, is excited about the test.
“We have to adapt to change,” he said.
The test is a great innovation for testing people who want their results quickly, especially for mobile testing, said Courtney “For those who want counseling, that would still be available. Now there is simply no excuse. No one can say, I’m too busy, I don’t have time.”
The test that will soon be available in stores/OTC is the OraQuick In-Home HIV test (www.oraquick.com), made by OraSure Technologies – NOT the INSTI HIV-1 Antibody test.