Vancouver Creates Better HIV Test
British Columbia will be the first province in Canada to use a more accurate HIV detection test that has greatly improved the diagnosis of early or acute HIV infection. The test is more expensive, but detects HIV up to three weeks earlier than the standard test.
According to an article in the Vancouver Sun, the new test, which will be utilized provincially following the results of a study led by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, detects the virus as soon as one to two weeks after it enters the body, compared with up to four weeks using standard HIV testing. That’s important, because people have a higher risk of transmitting HIV to others during the earliest stage of infection.
"The test allows you to pick up infections very early, as soon as one to two weeks after a person is infected with HIV," said study co-author Dr. Mark Gilbert of the BCCDC. "And we know that when people find out they’re HIV-positive, they take steps to ensure they don’t pass it on to others. So by letting people know they have HIV in the first two weeks after infection, at a time when they have the highest chance of passing on the virus, this means a great opportunity to reduce the spread of HIV."
The study, released this month in the AIDS Journal, found that nucleic acid amplification testing (NAAT) greatly improved the diagnosis of early or acute HIV infection, according to a joint release by the BCCDC and the Provincial Health Services Authority.
The study estimated that between 25 and 75 new HIV infections were avoided as a result of a pilot program that promoted the pooled NAAT method -- a test developed in the U.S. -- since April 2009 at six clinics accessed by gay and bisexual men in Vancouver.