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Testing for the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, used to take several weeks. More recently, HIV testing methods have been developed that tive results in 20 minutes. But the INSTI-1 HIV test gives an answer in just 60 seconds.

On this National HIV Testing Day, more and more HIV-awareness clinics around the United States are offering a rapid HIV test that provides results in just 60 seconds.

Called the INSTI HIV-1 Antibody Test, this new HIV testing method eliminates the possibility that people getting HIV testing will lose their nerve and leave the clinic before they get their test results. About 1 in 3 people who get HIV tests never learn their results. With the new HIV testing method, both the testee and the counsellor get results at the same time.

The new testing method allows mobile AIDS outreach labs to reach far more people each day, and to devote time to helping people who get positive test results figure out what to do next. In San Antonio, Texas, where the San Antonio AIDS Foundation got the new technology in May 2013, deputy director Jill Rips that the foundation will be able to offer HIV testing and counselling to 5,000 people over the next 12 months, compared to just 3,000 last year.

Better HIV Testing as Well as Faster HIV Testing

AIDS treatment advocates point out that the INSTI HIV-1 Antibody test is not just faster than older HIV testing methods, it is better. In addition to producing results in far less time than the faster previously available HIV testing method, the new method is slightly more accurate. It produces accurate results 99.8% of the time, compared to a 99.6% accuracy of older methods.

The INSTI HIV-1 Antibody test costs only half as much as the older technology, US $7 to $8 per test, compared to $16-18 for the method it is replacing. And the new HIV antibody test can detect infection sooner, just four to six weeks after initial exposure. Older methods could only detect the presence of the virus three months after it entered the body, delaying prophylactic treatment that can change the course of the disease.

HIV Testing with Just a Finger Stick

Another advantage of the new HIV testing method is that it is not necessary to draw a vial of blood from a vein in the arm to run the test. A drop of blood from a quick and painless poke to a finger is all the test requires to make a determination of the presence of absence of the virus. The test could be done without the assistance of a registered nurse or phlebotomist, and does not require a full laboratory setup.

The test is slightly more accurate when blood is drawn from a vein, but venous blood only improves the accuracy rate from 99.8% to 99.9%. The chances of being told one has HIV when one does not, or being told one does not have HIV when one does, are just 1 in 500 to 1 in 1,000. The test is not perfect, but it is the best test available in the United States at this time. Whether or not one tests positive for HIV, it is also possible to get a follow-up measurement of viral load, which is a good indication of whether the virus is present in the body but the immune system has not yet created antibodies to it.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Department of Health and Human Services. January 10, 2011/ 1-174. Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents. Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in HIV-1-infected adults and adolescents. AIDSinfo. Available at http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/contentfiles/AdultandAdolescentGL.pdf. Accessed 1 June 2013.
  • O'Hare, P. 1-minute HIV test to debut in S.A. San Antonio Express News, 30 May 2013.
  • Photo courtesy of Amanda Richards by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/arichards-gallery/5755422006/
  • Photo courtesy of Marcello Casal by Wikimedia Commons : commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oraquick2.jpg

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