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Supervised blood-based self-sample collection and rapid test performance: a valuable alternative to the use of saliva by HIV testing programmes with no medical or nursing staff


Objectives Some saliva-based HIV testing programmes have resulted in an unacceptable percentage of false positives. Many countries require blood-based testing programmes to have doctors/nurses. The authors evaluate whether, after brief training and under the supervision of a skilled counsellor, blood-based self-sample collection and rapid test performance could be a valuable alternative.

Methods 208 Spanish-speaking attendees at a street-based HIV testing programme in Madrid participated in the study. Participants were tested twice, first in the study and then in the programme, using the same finger-stick whole-blood rapid test (Determine HIV-1/2 Ag/Ab Combo®). Based on previously adapted instructions, the study counsellor explained the procedure to follow throughout the test. Participants then performed the test under the guidance of the counsellor. Demographic and risk behaviour data were collected by a self-administered questionnaire. The test results in the programme and the study were read by the study counsellor.

Results 99.0% (95% CI 96.6% to 99.9%) of participants had a valid result in the study test, the same percentage as in the programme test conducted by the doctor/nurse. Two persons had invalid test results in both the study and the programme, but they were not the same persons.

Conclusion The study provides clear evidence that this methodology is a valuable alternative to saliva for HIV testing programmes when medical or nursing staff required to take blood samples is not available.

  • HIV testing
  • rapid test
  • testing services
  • HIV
  • public health
  • epidemiology (general)
  • programme evaluation
  • outreach services
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