Canada: Positive HIV Tests Have Officials on Alert
December 31, 2007
This fall, Options Clinic in London, Ontario, saw seven positive HIV test results in 139 tests conducted since Sept. 1. Options Clinic is the only anonymous test site in the city and the only Ontario site besides Toronto's Hassle Free Clinic doing rapid HIV testing.
The seven positive patients included three heterosexual women, two heterosexual men, and two homosexual men. By comparison, Hassle Free had 15 positive diagnoses out of 1,015 tests; all but one of the infected were men.
Lyn Pitman, the London clinic co-coordinator, said Options Clinic has had four or five positive test results annually over the past several years, nearly all of them gay men. It is not the number of positive results that stands out, but the time period and patient profile.
The results coincide with an increase in the number of people seeking tests since Options Clinic began using rapid tests. Throughout 2006 and in the first four months of 2007, it averaged 44 tests a month. Since adopting the rapid test in May, the average has exceeded 51 tests a month; more than 85 percent of clients choose rapid tests over standard HIV tests.
Dr. Bryna Warshawsky of the Middlesex-London Health Unit said the results may be linked to the clinic's use of rapid tests, which may be encouraging people who did not want to wait long for results.
Frank McGee of the AIDS Bureau of the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care said it is too early to tell if the rapid tests will have an effect on the demographics of those who decide to get tested.
Based on 2005 figures, officials estimate some 25,000 people in Ontario have HIV, of whom about 34 percent are undiagnosed. London has the third-highest HIV rate in the province, behind Toronto and Ottawa.
Globe and Mail (Toronto)
12.25.2007; Susan Greer