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New rapid HIV test gives result in only 20 minutes

PRESS RELEASE: November 22, 2006

New rapid HIV test gives result in only 20 minutes

A new rapid HIV test being introduced at Auckland’s Burnett Centre from December 1st (World AIDS Day) will reduce anxiety and should increase the numbers of people testing for HIV, says the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, and is the first to be introduced in Australasia.

This test, billed as the FASTEST (Free, Anonymous, Simple Test), simplifies the testing procedure and significantly reduces waiting times. “This new test gives a result within 20 minutes, whereas previously you’d have to wait anywhere up to eight days,” says NZAF Positive Health Manager Eamonn Smythe. “The anxiety caused by the wait has been a significant barrier to testing for some people.”

A similar rapid testing system was introduced to the UK by the Terrence Higgins Trust in 2004, and testing numbers increased dramatically. “We’d like to see a similar increase here, as at least one-third of HIV in our community remains undiagnosed,” Smythe continues. “With gay and bisexual men in Auckland over-represented in last year’s new HIV infections, increased testing levels are a necessity.”

There are several forms of rapid test available internationally, but the one selected by NZAF for use in New Zealand - the Uni-Gold system by Trinity - came out at the top of a World Health Organisation review of rapid test systems for reliability. “The new test is as reliable as the regular test you’d receive from your GP,” Smythe says.

The test involves taking two drops of blood via a finger prick, which is then put into the testing device. “The whole process takes place on site at the Burnett Centre within a maximum 60-minute appointment,” Smythe explains. “In the event of a positive result, a confirmation blood test (Western Blot) will need to be taken as has been the case previously.”

NZAF hopes to introduce rapid testing to its centres in Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch next year if the Auckland service proves popular. “If you’ve had unsafe sex, or think you may be at risk, then call the Burnett Centre to make a booking, and come in and get tested,” Smythe says. “It’s better to know your HIV status, and our trained staff will be able to talk you through the process and any concerns you may have.”

ENDS

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