Make HIV testing easier in Atlantic Canada with new insti-kits, professor advises

New one-minute tests only available in large Canadian cities

A Dalhousie professor wants to make it easier and faster for people in Atlantic Canada to get tested for HIV.

Now, people can only get the tests done in larger urban centres like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and they sometimes must wait a few weeks to get the results back.

But professor Jacqueline Gahagan, interim director of the School of Health and Human Performance at Dalhousie, said there are new kits that will make HIV testing faster and easier. Gahagan has also sat on the ministerial council on the federal initiative to address HIV and AIDS in Canada for about the last 15 years.

“So instead of having to go to a doctor’s office, get a requisition, go to a lab, get your blood taken, go back to your physician several weeks later — this really reduces the amount of wait time for people who are concerned that they might actually be infected with HIV.” said Gahagan.

Fast and inexpensive

A doctor or pharmacist simply draws a drop of blood from the person’s finger, puts the blood into a tiny, plastic dish, and preliminary results are known within a minute.

The testing kit is made by B.C. company bioLytical and sells for about $15.

The kit is relatively easy to use — in fact, a person could do their own test, but Gahagan worries people might be overwhelmed by the results and have no one to guide them through the next steps.

Gahagan suggested pharmacists in Atlantic Canada could offer the service in rural areas, adding a pilot project is already underway in Newfoundland and Labrador to offer the tests in rural pharmacies.

“Most pharmacies have a small private consultation room or area which would work,” she said.

“So are there pharmacists in P.E.I. that would say, ‘Hey, we’d like to make that available to people. We’re going to do a media blitz, we’re going to let people know that on International Testing Day, we’re going to make this available’ and it’s going to increase foot traffic into the pharmacy,” she said.

‘Increase discussion and support’

Gahagan is looking at whether people who work in community services could be trained to use the kits.

“There would [also] be some training needed for pre- and post-test counselling to understand that within minutes they may get a reactive test result, and are people ready to hear that?” she asked.

AIDS PEI has been in talks with Health PEI, but executive director Cybelle Reiber said nothing is firmed up. Health PEI could not be reached for comment.

Gagahan plans to hold a webinar on March 8 at 11:am AT. Anyone interested in registering can call 1-800-263-1638 ext 230.

“The hope is that this information can be made more widely available, particularly in the Atlantic region, and maybe use it as a platform to increase discussion and support for this to be available here,” she said.

Source: CBC News

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