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Rapid Oral HIV Test (cont.)

Rapid Oral HIV Test Procedure

To perform an oral test, the tester takes the device that has an absorbent pad at one end, places the pad above a person's teeth along the outer gum, and swabs once around both the upper and lower gums. The tester then inserts the device into a vial containing the developing solution.

In 20 minutes, the device indicates whether HIV-1 or HIV-2 antibodies are present. If one line appears on the strip, it means that the person is not infected with HIV (with 99.8% accuracy). If two lines appear, the person is likely infected (99.3% accuracy). If the result is positive, it has to be confirmed with an additional, more specific test called a western blot. As with all antibody tests for HIV, it could take from two to 12 weeks for a newly infected person to develop antibodies to the HIV virus and thus test positive for HIV. Therefore, if there is a negative result and a possibility of a recent exposure to HIV, the test must be repeated in 12 weeks.

Traditional HIV tests require an entire vial of blood and take up to two weeks to get results. In addition to the OraQuick ADVANCE Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody test, which can be done on oral fluid, finger-stick blood or plasma, there are other rapid HIV tests approved by the FDA that can be performed on a finger-stick blood sample with results in 20 minutes. These are the Uni-Gold Recombigen HIV test, Clearview HIV-1/2 Stat Pak, and Clearview Complete HIV-1/2.

These rapid tests have revolutionized HIV screening by making testing available in many clinics, emergency departments, and temporary testing sites such as at health fairs and special HIV testing events.

Hospitals use these rapid HIV screening tests to tell if health workers have been exposed to HIV-infected blood and to test women in labor who had not been previously checked. This way, exposed workers and newborns can get anti-HIV drugs immediately to possibly prevent infection. In 2003, the CDC emphasized the use of these rapid HIV screening tests at shelters, drug treatment centers, and other nonmedical facilities.

The cost for the rapid HIV test, whether it uses oral fluid or a finger-stick blood sample is about $8 per test for public health officials and $8-$20 for other organizations.

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