November 20, 2013
This article was reported by Medical Xpress.
A study reported in Medical Xpress concluded that youth prefer and benefit more from rapid point-of-care (POC) HIV tests than from traditional blood tests. The traditional HIV test involves a blood draw that requires laboratory analysis with results available in one to two weeks; rapid POC tests use a finger prick or saliva swab and provide results in minutes.
Dr. Suzanne Turner, a family physician at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada, and colleagues reviewed the literature published between 1990 and 2013 on POC tests and youth. Findings showed that more than 50 percent of youth who participated in 14 North American studies preferred rapid POC tests as they were less invasive with faster results. Acceptance of HIV testing increased when healthcare providers offered POC testing directly and when they offered it along with traditional testing. Researchers observed youths' POC test preferences across a range of racial, gender, sexual orientation, cultural, geographic, and socioeconomic groups in different healthcare settings.
Turner stated that in Canada, youth ages 15-29 account for 26.5 percent of HIV-positive results, but 83 percent of adolescents reported they never went to a healthcare provider for any sexual health reason. She noted that American data show that fewer than 32 percent of youth get tested for HIV and 60 percent of HIV-positive youth do not know their status. Turner explained that many high-risk youth are transient or homeless and would not return for follow-up; hence, rapid POC would be appropriate as patients would get their results at the same appointment.
Approximately 50 locations in Ontario community clinics offer rapid POC tests. The researchers suggested that expanding rapid POC tests to primary and emergency departments could increase acceptance, with 83-93 percent of youth accepting rapid HIV POC testing in such settings. Turner believed that not being offered HIV testing directly created a barrier for youth. She contended that healthcare providers must offer POC HIV testing routinely in all patient environments, "from emergency departments to community programs." Turner advocated more research on youth, HIV, and POC testing to identify specific trends in particular populations and devise youth-targeted testing programs.
The full report, "Rapid Point-of-Care HIV Testing in Youth: A Systematic Review," was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health (2013; 53 (6):683-691; doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.07.029).