30 November 2007

Rapid HIV tests improve detection

The use of rapid HIV tests in outreach settings and other community initiatives is valuable in detecting HIV infection in minority groups as well as in high-risk individuals.

The use of rapid HIV tests in outreach settings and other community initiatives is valuable in detecting HIV infection in racial/ethnic minority groups as well as in high-risk individuals, new study findings show.

From 2004 to 2006, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention funded a rapid HIV testing programme, which was implemented by eight community-based organisations in seven US cities: Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.

The findings, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, indicate that 23 900 individuals were tested under this programme. Thirty-nine percent of those tested were black, 31 percent were Hispanic, 21 percent were white, and 9 percent were from other groups.

Many of those tested were from groups at high risk for HIV infection: 6 percent were injection drug users, 17 percent were men who have sex with men, and 66 percent were individuals with multiple sexual partners.

Thirty percent of the subjects tested under the outreach programme had never been tested before, the report indicates. Moreover, of the people who had been tested before, 43 percent had not been tested in more than a year.

Targeting multiple populations
With rapid testing, results can be given in 20 to 40 minutes. When the tests were positive, blood was taken for a confirmation test and the individuals were given follow-up appointments. If they were found to be HIV-positive, they were referred to local providers for medical care.

Overall, 267 subjects were confirmed positive for HIV infection. Seventy four percent of these individuals were black or Hispanic.

"This project demonstrated that rapid HIV testing in a range of settings can effectively target multiple populations at high risk for HIV infection," the report concludes. "Offering rapid HIV testing in outreach and other community settings provides opportunities to identify HIV infections and to link persons with positive test results to prevention and medical care." - (Reuters Health)

Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, November 29, 2007.

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HIV/Aids Centre

December 2007


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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