The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department will charge $16 for AIDS tests, but no one will be turned away because of inability to pay, the director of the department said Friday.
The board of directors set the fee in response to state funding cuts, said Kay Kent, health department director.
On Jan. 1, the state cut reimbursement for the tests to $5. After June, the state won't reimburse health departments for AIDS tests.
Kent has expressed concern that a fee will deter some people from being tested for the virus that causes AIDS. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has stressed the importance of testing because of the estimated one million people who may be carrying the virus but don't know it.
When explaining the cuts, state officials have said they are putting more money into early intervention for people who've tested positive for the disease, which has no cure.
As it does with other services, Kent said the health department will not deny anyone an AIDS test because of inability to pay. Health department officials will work with people who can't afford to pay the $16 fee.
Kent described the fee as something "we have to do."
The fee and funding cuts come at a time when the number of people requesting tests has increased. In 1990, 392 people were tested for the AIDS virus at the local department, and 547 people were tested last year. Health department officials said requests for tests increased after former basketball star Magic Johnson announced in November that he tested positive for HIV.