Free HIV testing at certain pharmacies during six-month project

Rapid HIV testing available in select Alberta and Newfoundland pharmacies

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that 21 per cent of the infected population are still unaware of their HIV-positive status, MUN said in a news release.

“There are many reasons people don’t get tested,” Debbie Kelly, School of Pharmacy, Memorial University, said in the news release. She and Jason Kielly, School of Pharmacy, are the co-principal investigators.

“Sometimes people do not realize their own risk for HIV, or if they do, they may not be able to readily access testing,”? Kelly said.

HIV testing in Newfoundland and Labrador is available through family doctors, sexual health clinics or in hospitals. However, if people are without a family doctor or live outside the St. John’s area in a region without a sexual health clinic, it is more challenging to obtain an HIV test, MUN said.

Those at highest risk of infection include men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and sex workers.

The rapid HIV test is ideal for use in the pharmacy setting. Results are available in about a minute, the news release said.

“Pharmacists will be using the Insti® HIV Rapid Antibody Test, an HIV screening test manufactured by bioLytical Laboratories,” said Kielly. “The test requires a finger prick blood sample, similar to how someone with diabetes would check their blood sugar.”??Those being tested will also receive education from the pharmacist about how HIV is transmitted, so they can assess their own risk and know how to stay safe in future.

Testing will be available as of Tuesday, Feb. 14, at select times at Shoppers Drug Mart locations at 250 LeMarchant Rd. in St. John’s and 93 West St. in Corner Brook.

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