Routine rapid testing for HIV 'is acceptable to patients'

HIV Study at inner-city practice found many agreed to be screened.

Offering a rapid HIV test as part of a general check-up could help to boost testing rates and is acceptable to patients, UK research suggests.

A quarter of patients living with HIV in Britain are currently unaware of their infection.

Rapid tests are used in some sexual health clinics, but are not offered in primary care because of concerns that patients would feel uncomfortable being asked to take the test.

Last year, the British HIV Association recommended that GPs offer HIV testing to tackle the high proportion of undiagnosed HIV cases.

For this latest study, researchers recruited 85 patients, aged 18 to 55, who were attending an inner-city practice in London for a new patient health check.

A total of 38 of the patients agreed to have a rapid HIV test.

These patients received a pre-test discussion including a description of the testing process and a talk on the benefits of testing.

The majority of patients who refused the test did so because they had already been tested for HIV.

The researchers carried out interviews with 17 patients who accepted a test and three patients who declined the test to explore the acceptability of offering HIV testing.

The main reason patients accepted the test was because it was given as part of a general health check.

All interviewees said that having rapid HIV tests in general practice was appropriate.

Lead researcher Dr Audrey Prost, from University College London, concluded: 'Offering a rapid HIV test as part of a general check-up seems to eliminate a lot of the stigma around the test.'

She added that the rapid test for HIV has the advantage of producing results in just 20 minutes compared with the commonly used blood test which produces results after 10 days.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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