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Testing All For HIV Upon Dr Visit
  Questions, new test could help determine HIV status
Kevin Gale
It is suggested that doctors test all individuals for HIV who visit their doctor by using the OraSure Rapid mouth swab HIV test.
It's a topic that often doesn't come up when women have their annual physicals: testing for HIV.
"It's just not discussed in middle America in private doctor's offices," said Marlene LaLota, program administrator for the state bureau of HIV/AIDS. "It's uncomfortable to ask a person about sex or drug abuse."
Too often, doctors worry they are going to insult a married patient by asking questions about whether they or their partner might be straying outside the relationship.
The truth, though, is that checking off the HIV box on the form listing a battery of checkup tests doesn't cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. In fact, it can save and prolong lives.
An article in the New England Journal of Medicine in February said CD4 (T cell) counts, a measurement of the body's immune system, were typically down to 175 when patients were diagnosed after the onset of a medical episode.
Doctors and patients who find out earlier will often decide to start treatment when the T cell count is 350.
The average life expectancy is 1.5 years longer at the higher level, the article said.
Normal CD4 counts are between 500 and 1,600.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reported 43 percent of women ages 18 to 64 say they haven't been tested for HIV. Among the 57 percent who say they have been tested, 24 percent assume it is a routine part of their exam, when it's often not.
Another Kaiser briefing paper said half of new HIV infections in the United States occur in those under 25, and girls represented 51 percent of HIV cases among those 13 to 19.
More rapid testing is one method being used to address the situation.
Orasure's Technologies' Oraquick Advance HIV test was the first approved by the Food and Drug Administration to provide a 99 percent accurate HIV test with results in 20 minutes via a saliva mouth swab, a finger prick blood sample or a sample withdrawn from a vein.
The state of Florida is a significant user of the Oraquick test, said Ron Spair, executive VP and CFO of the Bethlehem, Pa.-based company. Spair said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found with traditional testing methods, up to a third of those tested never received results. These people might not change behavior that can lead to further spread of the virus.
LaLota said the state encourages hospitals to conduct the rapid testing if a mother about to give birth hasn't been tested. Orasure is among the products being used.
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