The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded a four-year, $1.7 million research grant to Cal State Long Beach’s (CSULB) Center for Behavioral Research and Services (CBRS) for a project that will study the accuracy and acceptability of experimental rapid tests for infectious diseases.
Titled “Behavioral Science Aspects of Rapid Test Acceptance,” the project will be CSULB’s first registered clinical trial, and the research will contribute to the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval for the experimental tests as well as a better understanding of who selects rapid tests and why.
“Traditional testing for infectious diseases, such as HIV, hepatitis and syphilis, requires clients to return for their test results one or two weeks after providing a sample. But, there are many people who don’t return to get their results,” noted Dennis Fisher, CBRS director and professor of psychology at CSULB. “When people fail to return for their test results, they do not learn of their disease status, and for those who are infected, not knowing their disease status may delay or prevent accessing available treatments and may lead to others becoming infected.
“Rapid testing for infectious diseases, where clients have the opportunity to receive their results on the same day as they provide their specimen, has the potential to increase the proportion of people who receive their test results,” he added. “Increasing the proportion of people who receive screening test results is important not only to prevent new infections, but also to facilitate those who are infected to access treatment services.”
Currently there are no rapid tests available in the United States for syphilis or combined tests for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and hepatitis C (HCV). While there are rapid tests for HIV available in this country, new HIV rapid tests have been developed that are more sensitive and can detect HIV earlier, but these have not been FDA-approved.
Fisher’s newly funded project will examine the accuracy and acceptability of six experimental rapid tests for HIV, syphilis, and/or HCV. The study will estimate sensitivity and specificity of these tests and will look at the acceptability of these tests among different behavioral risk groups.
The CBRS is a multi-function unit of CSULB dedicated to psychosocial research and services related to community health and social problems. The center conducts social and behavioral research on health and substance-use related issues, and the focus of these studies has been on HIV risk, stress and sexually transmitted diseases. CBRS also operates programs to reduce HIV risk in historically under-served populations.