Friday, June 17, 2005

Why We Don't Have a More Effective HIV test

There is a revised, better HIV test that still isn't being used, thanks to the footdragging by CDC officials in Atlanta.

NAAT for Nucleic Acid Amplification Test, provides a new weapon for HIV experts. IT was the main reason North Carolina health officials, who developed the test, were able to uncover an outbreak of the AIDS virus among 84 suitdents at 37 colleges in the state.

The NAAT test finds the actual AIDS virus itself and can do so within a week after infection. The current test which looks for antibodies can take weeks to develop in the bloodstream, whereby giving a false negative because a recently infected person would show being negative and thus free of HIV, when that wouldn't be the case.

Because the test is expensive, it is done using blood pooling. Up to 100 samples that tested negative using antibody testes are pooled together and tested at one. If the virus is not found in the pooled sample, officials go no further. If the virus is found, indivisual samples are tested until the positive match is found.

NAAST has increased HIV detection by 8 percent in SanFrancisco, where it has been used since 2003. Other than North Carolina, few other places offer the test, mainly because many health officials are waiting for the CDC to endorse it.

according to Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, San Francisco's director of sexually transmitted disease prevention, "It's up to localities to take the initiative." He woul dlove to see strong evidence, but sometimes acting in lieu of the evidence is more beneficial that waiting until there is achieved the highest level of evidence.

If the NAAT test works, then I say, go with it. With new strains emerging and more than 1 million people living with HIV and others still not knowing their status, it makes good sense to let the NAAT test be implemented nationwide. How can CDC officials live with themselves, knowing that there is a test that detects HIV almost instantly? The more lives can be saved if this information, is used responsibly, and HIV infected inviduals can start their treatment immediately. After all, shouldn't this be the No. 1 priority of an agency like the CDC?


AC said...

I think the problem lies in the fact that the very industry that helps keep us all alive stands to make much larger profits selling HIV medications than it does selling HIV tests....

Will said...

Enlarging on Adam's comment, my sense is that the CDC is also fairly highly politicized, and has been for some time. Under this administration, we can all imagine which way the politics lean.

hbjock said...

Hmmm yeah I'd have to agree with Adam... The pharmacutical industry is a billion maybe even trillion dollar industry, and they are very powerful political agent as well! Then again, there may also be the still-evident stigma that HIV is "their" disease, referring to homosexuals... and although we know that it affects everyone, I don't know if that has truly sunk in just yet..