Health Department expands HIV testing options

For Immediate Release: June 25, 2007
 
Media Contact: Communication Office
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – For National HIV Testing Day on Wednesday, June 27, the Vermont Department of Health will expand its anonymous counseling and HIV testing program.

“This year we’ve added more testing sites, including several Health Department offices,” said Rob Lunn MPA, director of the HIV/AIDS/STD/Hepatitis Program for the Health Department. “We now offer anonymous HIV antibody testing at four of our district offices, as well as at our main office in Burlington.”

Testing is now available in Health Department district offices in Barre, Bennington, Newport and St. Albans. A test sample of oral fluid is collected and sent to the Health Department laboratory for analysis. Test results are ready within one to two weeks.

Beginning on Thursday, June 28, the Vermont Department of Health will also offer free, anonymous HIV antibody testing by appointment every Thursday at its main office at 108 Cherry Street in Burlington.

Health Department counselors will offer both OraSure™ and OraQuick ADVANCE™ rapid tests. OraQuick ADVANCE™ is a relatively new HIV antibody screening technology that can provide an accurate negative test result or a preliminary positive result in as little as 20 minutes. A negative result indicates that a person is either not infected with HIV, or has been tested too soon after infection before detectable levels of HIV antibodies have developed. A positive rapid test indicates that the person likely has HIV, though that result must be confirmed by conventional tests processed at the Health Department lab.

Anyone interested in rapid HIV antibody testing at the Health Department in Burlington should call the Vermont AIDS Hotline, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 1-800-882-2437 to speak with a counselor and set up an appointment. The Burlington clinic is held Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The Health Department has worked with many of its HIV testing providers across the state to offer rapid testing, which is currently only available from a limited number of health care providers.

“We expect that the new providers we’ve trained in OraQuick ADVANCE™ will be ready to deliver it by August 1 of this year,” Lunn said, “and we will continue to work with and train providers so that the rapid test will be more readily available statewide.”

Because so many people are not aware they are infected with HIV, they are usually not diagnosed until late, when it has already advanced to AIDS. Vermont has an AIDS case rate that is among the lowest in the nation (47th lowest) and the number of AIDS diagnoses has decreased between 1999 and 2004.

As of December 2006, there were 441 reported cases of HIV/AIDS in Vermont, and an estimated 110 residents living with the virus that have not been diagnosed.

HIV is spread primarily through sex and syringe sharing. A mother with HIV can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding, although early intervention and medical care can greatly reduce the risk. Women who are considering pregnancy, or who are pregnant, are encouraged to ask their medical providers about HIV testing.

“With an estimated one out of four HIV-positive Americans unaware of their infection, increasing the opportunities for testing are critical,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN. “Knowing your status is an important part of protecting your health. People who are treated early for HIV are better able to manage the infection and delay the onset of AIDS.”

For information on HIV testing, call toll-free within Vermont 800-882-AIDS (800-882-2437) or for hearing impaired TTY access, dial 800-319-3141 (open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). Or visit healthvermont.gov for testing locations.

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