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Rapid HIV Tests Could Help Fight AIDS

Researchers attending the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto presented the results of a study on a rapid HIV test, which, they say, could help tackle the global AIDS pandemic.

The gold standard HIV test has been a blood test that takes two weeks to process, a period during which people who have come in for testing may not return to learn their results

That is why there is a great deal of interest in rapid testing, which can yield results in as little as 20 minutes.

At the University of California, investigators looked at the records of 101,000 clients of the California HIV Counseling and Testing in 2005. They found that 25 percent of those who had the conventional HIV blood test did not return to find out their status, compared to two percent who took the rapid test.

George Lemp, who headed the study, says rapid testing is a way to get HIV-positive people the treatment and counseling they need as soon as possible.

That includes those in developing countries where transportation is usually a problem.

Lemp says the rapid test is flexible enough to be brought to people where they live.

"Because they are not going to be available necessarily in the times when the clinics are available during the day in a location that's remote to where they are actually living," he said.

Lemp says the rapid HIV test is 99 percent accurate and he expects that it will cost about the same as the two-week test.