Free, fast AIDS tests come to Oakland

Health officials hope that HIV screenings will soon become commonplace alongside flu shots and blood pressure exams at area drugstores.

The $1.2 million pilot program is offering free, rapid HIV tests at pharmacies and in-store clinics in 24 cities, including Oakland, to see if it will catch on among customers.

Dr. Kevin Fenton of the CDC said in a statement that this effort is to change the viewpoint on HIV and encourage others to stay safe and healthy:

“By bringing HIV testing into pharmacies, we believe we can reach more people by making testing more accessible and reduce the stigma associated with HIV.”

Tests have already begun in seven places. The CDC will implement tests in 17 other locations as well.

The HIV tests offered are swabs tests inside the mouth with initial results given in 20 minutes. If the result is positive, the customer is then referred to a health care provider for confirmation via blood test, as well as counseling and treatment.

The project ends next summer, at which point the CDC will examine its effectiveness, according to Paul Weidle, the epidemiologist who is heading up the project.

Health organizations have sent workers to drugstores in the past for temporary HIV tests, but this project has a different intention.

The goal is to be able to train drugstore workers to perform the test themselves and potentially make it a permanent service.

Mike’s Pharmacy in Oakland will be participating in the initial round of the project. Each location participating will receive enough kits to test 200 to 300 people.