National HIV Testing Day is observed on June 27 of each year to raise public awareness of the importance of knowing one’s HIV status and to encourage communities, organizations and governments to support HIV testing initiatives. APHL salutes the governmental laboratories that diagnose hard-to-identify HIV infections. The service provided by these public health laboratories protects the health of individuals and the community at large.
Even with the enormous advances over the past several years, traditional HIV tests may not identify individuals in the early stages of HIV infection or who are infected with HIV-2, a less common and slower progressing strain of HIV. Although new laboratory-based methods promise to detect more early infections, detection and diagnosis of HIV-2 remains a concern.
According to Dr. Mike Pentella, associate director of the State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa, “We have identified two HIV-2 infections in recent years that may have been missed if thorough laboratory testing was not conducted. Public health laboratories, through their ability to identify difficult infections like HIV-2 and acute HIV-1 infections, make a significant contribution to HIV prevention efforts.” Dr. Pentella also serves as the chair of the APHL/CDC HIV Steering Committee.
There currently is no FDA-approved confirmatory test for HIV-2.
“You need an accurate and reliable diagnosis before you can treat someone,” says Dr. Patrick Luedtke, president of APHL’s board of directors and director of the Unified State Laboratory in Utah. “While it is obviously critical to use a reliable testing method for the purposes of patient diagnosis, it is also crucial for monitoring its spread.”
APHL commends our members, colleagues and partners who work every day to improve outreach and provide accurate and timely diagnostic testing for the public health community.