One-step HIV test may be cheaper, faster, less wasteful

A quick, readily available test for the AIDS virus that offers results in half an hour may not only be faster but also much cheaper than standard tests that take weeks to deliver results, a new study suggests. Using this one-step rapid test also means that clients know their HIV status immediately and don't have to return to the clinic for a later visit.

Donatus U. Ekwueme, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and colleagues analyzed costs of three HIV tests, comparing the standard counseling and testing method to two-step and one-step rapid-test methods. Previous research established that the rapid tests give results as accurate as the standard test.

"The one-step rapid method -- where combinations of rapid tests are used to provide a definitive HIV test result -- was consistently the least expensive of the three methods," Ekwueme says. This was true for both HIV-positive and HIV-negative clients.

The cost of lab materials and staff time per HIV-positive person notified was nearly $82 for the standard test, about $86 for the two-step rapid method, but only $34 for the one-step method.

Their work appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

With the standard test, the client's blood sample is sent out to a central lab for evaluation. If repeated runs of this first test react to HIV antibodies -- indicating presence of the virus -- technicians run a second test, called a Western blot. The whole process may take from several days to two weeks.

"However, with the rapid-testing methods, an on-site test is used for the initial screening and results are available with in minutes or hours," says Ekwueme. "Clients can receive preliminary HIV results on the same day."

If a preliminary rapid test is negative, showing no sign of the HIV antibodies, the client is not infected and testing is complete. If the HIV test is positive, however, further testing must be don

Contact: Donatus U. Ekwueme
Center for the Advancement of Health

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