Rapid Point-of-Care HIV Testing in Community-Based Anonymous Testing Program: A Valuable Alternative to Conventional Testing
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Our goal was to determine whether introducing rapid point-of-care (POC) whole-blood HIV testing as alternative to standard laboratory-based testing is acceptable and changes the rate of receiving test results at an anonymous testing program. From December 2001 through April 2002 all patients requesting HIV testing at Hassle Free Clinic in Toronto were offered rapid POC or standard testing. Routine clinical data was collected. All patients were invited to complete a questionnaire evaluating testing procedure. Test counselors also completed evaluation questionnaires. HIV-positive patients were invited to an in-depth interview. There were 1610 patients, 91% chose the rapid POC test. Overall 98.9% of patients received final results, compared with 93% in the previous year. Among the rapid testers, 100% received an initial result, and 18 of 22 testing positive returned for confirmatory results. Among standard testers 90.8% returned for results (p < 0.001 compared to rapid testers) including all of the 4 with positive tests. There were 1257 (79%) patients who completed questionnaires, 4 with positive tests agreed to interviews, and test counselors evaluated every visit. Standard testers indicated significantly greater difficulty than rapid testers with the testing procedure. Test counselors also indicated that standard testers had greater difficulty. HIV-positive patients coped well with the testing procedure and indicated high quality counseling was important. Rapid HIV testing was acceptable to patients and test counselors, provided more patients with test results and reduced total time and number of visits. High-quality pretest and posttest counseling is particularly important for rapid testers with positive results. The impact of false-positive results requires further study.
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