The federal government cleared the way yesterday to provide wide access to an AIDS test that can deliver results in minutes as President Bush promised a big increase in domestic funding for AIDS prevention.
Bush said the Food and Drug Administration had approved a rapid AIDS test that would be available for use in more than 100,000 doctors' offices across the country.
The test, which provides results in about 20 minutes, is needed because every year an estimated 8,000 infected people go to clinics for testing but do not return a week later for the results.
"This country needs to provide some hope, because this disease can be prevented and it can be treated," Bush said after meeting with his advisory council on HIV/AIDS.
Under fire from AIDS groups for what they charge is administration neglect of the disease, Bush asked Congress on Tuesday to triple AIDS spending in Africa and Haiti to $15 billion over five years.
Yesterday, he said he is proposing $16 billion for AIDS prevention and treatment in the United States in fiscal 2004, a 7 percent increase over current funding.
More than 36 million people worldwide are infected with the virus that causes AIDS -- 25 million in Africa alone. The United Nations predicts AIDS will kill 70 million people in the next 20 years unless rich nations step up efforts.
There is no cure for AIDS, but a cocktail of expensive drugs known as antiretrovirals can help keep symptoms at bay. Such drugs are widely available in wealthy nations but not in those hardest hit by AIDS.
The new AIDS test, called OraQuick and made by OraSure Technologies Inc., has 99.6 percent accuracy from testing a drop of blood drawn from a finger and is simple to use, the Food and Drug Administration said. OraSure's stock jumped more than 20 percent to $7.46 on the Nasdaq Stock Market yesterday.
One-quarter of the estimated 900,000 HIV-positive people in the United States do not know they are infected with the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. Finding out enables them to seek treatment.