ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Health officials here are defending the use of rapid HIV testing and are pushing for universal access for that method by 2015.
Rapid tests have been described by scientists as an easier and faster way of testing for HIV but it has also been criticised for being erroneous.
The head of Antigua & Barbuda National HIV/AIDS response programme, Delcora Williams, who is back on island after attending a rapid testing consultation in Panama City, Panama, is standing behind the new testing method.
“About 98 per cent of the time it is accurate but nothing is perfect,” she said.
Williams has expressed confidence that this twin island nation may be able to achieve universal care by the stipulated deadline.
At the Panama meeting, the country also gave an update on its successes so far in implementing rapid testing and the challenges it has faced.
“We have decided what testing kit we are going to be using for our HIV tests. Six testers have been certified within the national AIDS programme so now it’s just for the sites to be certified,” Williams told OBSERVER Media.
Results from rapid HIV testing can be available in as little as 20 minutes. It is preferred over the method, which uses needles to draw blood from a patient and can take as much as two weeks for results.
Many persons do not return for the results of conventional tests but almost all clients receive their rapid HIV test results according to the centre for disease control.
The national HIV/AIDS programme has promised to train eight existing centres which currently offer the traditional testing.
“We are doing this to get more people access to rapid testing facilities,” Williams said.