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Canadian Province Launches 60-Second HIV Testing Blitz

Posted by pozlife on June 25, 2007

 


by The Canadian Press

Posted: June 22, 2007 – 5:00 pm ET 

(Toronto, Ontario) Ontario has become the first jurisdiction in North America to offer HIV tests that provide results in just 60 seconds and will double the number of sites across the province where anonymous tests are available, Health Minister George Smitherman announced Friday.

It will cost about $350,000 a year to have the HIV tests available at 50 sites, which Smitherman said is a small price to pay _ especially when it eliminates the agonizing three-week wait patients currently endure for results.

“I’m a gay man, and I’m one of those that has experienced that gut wrenching three-week wait,” he said. “Everybody remembers that wait, and accordingly, you can’t put a price on it.”

The entire process with the new tests, which involves taking a drop of blood along with pre- and post-test counselling, takes about 20 minutes.

The tests will be available at anonymous testing sites, sexually transmitted disease clinics and community health centres across the province, including 24 new sites in northern and rural Ontario, but not through family doctors.

“This is an initiative that is linked to the anonymous testing sites,” said Smitherman.

“If we look at the profile of HIV and AIDS, we really appropriately have to tailor our initiatives to reducing barriers for those at risk communities.”

With faster HIV-test results, patients who need treatment will get it faster, said Smitherman.

It’s estimated that 30 per cent of people who are HIV positive are unaware of their status _ up to 15,000 Canadians _ and Smitherman said the 60-second point of care tests may help convince those reluctant to be tested to actually go to a clinic.

“Let’s say that you are a closeted individual, or a bisexual . . . it’s really, really crucial that we have the capacity not just to offer the testing, but to offer the pre- and post-supports,” he said.

“It might be the health-care system’s only shot at really getting it right with that individual.”

Frank McGee, co-ordinator of the province’s AIDS Bureau, said he wants to reach those who are HIV positive but don’t know it.

“We understand people may fear knowing the results,” McGee said. “But getting tested will help alleviate the anxiety and will make a difference in the effectiveness of treatment.”

The point of care HIV tests have been used on about 5,000 people in the past year at Toronto’s Hassle Free Clinic, and proved a big hit with patients who wanted to find out their status.

“Client response has been overwhelmingly positive, with over 90 per cent of patients choosing rapid testing and expressing high satisfaction with the process and the technology,” said clinic co-ordinator Jane Greer.

“This is a huge step forward in our ongoing response to HIV-AIDS in Ontario.”

The province said it wants to improve access to HIV testing in remote and rural communities, and hopes to have the 24 new anonymous testing sites in communities such as Kenora, Keewatin, Timmins, Leamington and Chatham, up and running by this fall.

Source: Gay News From 365Gay.com

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