By YESENIA AMARO
Nevada and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation on Monday reached a settlement that will allow the foundation to continue to provide free rapid HIV testing with mobile vans.
The foundation will be able to do so under its Nevada clinic licenses.
The settlement is a positive outcome for people in Nevada, said Laura Boudreau, chief counsel for operations at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, based in Los Angeles.
“Most infections are coming from people who don’t know they are HIV- positive,” she said Monday afternoon. And most of those people won’t necessarily go to a clinic to get tested, but if you bring the testing to their community, they are more likely to get tested, she said.
In May, the state’s attorney general’s office filed a civil complaint on behalf of Nevada Chief Medical Officer Tracey Green in District Court against the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The complaint alleged the foundation was using a mobile unit that was not licensed or registered with the state’s Public and Behavioral Health Division.
Under federal regulations, organizations can get a waiver to perform certain approved HIV tests without having to be licensed as a full laboratory. Organizations must implement a quality assurance plan.
In 2009, Nevada enacted a statute that says the state cannot have laws and regulations that are more stringent than federal regulations.
“I think it’s just one of those cases where we had a change in law and regulation always take a little bit of time to catch up,” said Kyle Devine, chief of the state’s Health Care Quality and Compliance Bureau.
The bureau will work on regulations that will align with state law to provide access to rapid HIV testing in the community, Devine said. The bureau will propose the regulations by June 2015.
This past weekend alone, the foundation conducted 59 rapid HIV tests in Las Vegas outside the SHARE and Piranha nightclubs, said Whitney Engeran Cordova, senior director of public health at the foundation. Two of those were positive.
Overall, in the past few weeks since the foundation began to provide the service, it has tested close to 500 people, and 10 were positive, Cordova said. When conducting the tests, staff asked the test-takers if they were locals, and the majority were, he said.
“What that tells us is that there’s need out there,” Cordova said.
There are two types of rapid tests. One is a finger blood test, which gives results in about a minute. The other one is an oral test that is rolled on the person’s gums and gives results in about 20 minutes, Cordova said.
The tests look for antibodies that are reacting to HIV and are 99 percent accurate, he said.
Contact Yesenia Amaro at [email protected] or 702-383-0440. Find her on Twitter: @YeseniaAmaro.