County Defends Use Of Questionable HIV Test

OraQuick Under Fire For Giving False Positives

County health officials say they will continue using a popular HIV test despite questions about its accuracy, 10News reported.

In San Diego, a review of the OraQuick test turned up two false positives among more than 30 positive results. Health officials said that for now, that percentage is good enough to keep the test around.

"It's proven to be effective. there is an element of error but I think the most prudent thing is to find out why the testing is coming out positive before we discontinue the use," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, from the San Diego County Health Department.

The OraQuick HIV diagnostic test was approved by the FDA in 2004. The saliva test promises results in just minutes with a 99 percent accuracy rate. But some are now wondering if the claims of accuracy are wrong.

"They are finding that they are obtaining some false positives," Wooten said.

Public health officials in several cities stopped using the test because it was giving false positives. In one month, 13 false positives were reported in Los Angeles, and in San Francisco, 47 were reported in a month, where one out of four positives were false.

"The accuracy of the tests are good so we feel good about the results," Wooten said.

But some call the decision to stick with the test a big mistake.

Film producer Michael Geiger has overseen several AIDS-related projects. He has researched 15 local stories of false positive tests in the past decade. Although those positive tests are routintely followed up with confirmation tests, Geiger said the wait is agonizing.

"They go through a realm of emotions from shame and guilt to grief, overwhelming fear, anger and desperation," said Geiger.

County officials said those who take the OraQuick test are clearly told it is a preliminary test.

But Geiger said that can't stop the emotion, citing the case of one San Diego man who committed suicide in the late 1990s after a positive diagnosis.

"The mother had gotten the secondary test that showed to be a false positive," Geiger told 10News.

Still, the county is not ready to stop using the test indicating it will follow the lead of federal health officials who are expected to advise this week.

In the meantime, positive results be followed by another rapid test involving a fingerprick of blood.

Print this article Back to Top