What is rapid HIV testing?

Updated: Jul 27, 2020
  • Author: Jacob D Isserman, MD; Chief Editor: Steven C Dronen, MD, FAAEM  more...
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Early diagnosis of acute human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection via rapid HIV testing can identify patients who will benefit from antiretroviral treatment, which has been shown to delay the progression to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and death [1] and to reduce the transmission of HIV. Rapid HIV testing may also be useful to quickly confirm the diagnosis of HIV infection in patients who present with an AIDS-defining illness but have unknown HIV status.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends universal HIV screening of all US residents aged 13-64 years and annual screening for high-risk populations. [2] The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for ages 15-65 years and for those outside this range with HIV risk factors. [3] This can be completed at any convenient healthcare encounter, including primary care, urgent care, emergency department visits, outreach programs utilizing mobile clinics or kiosks, or even in patients' homes.

Studies have shown that nearly one third of patients screened for HIV by traditional programs with pretest counseling and blood tests that are sent to a central laboratory fail to return for follow-up visits to learn the results. [4] Rapid HIV testing has the benefit of allowing counselling and results during a single encounter. Identification of asymptomatic HIV-positive patients benefits the individual and the public health. Seropositive patients can be referred for treatment and taught about practices that will help reduce the risk of infecting others. [5]

For other discussions on HIV infection, see HIV Disease, Pediatric HIV Infection, and Antiretroviral Therapy for HIV Infection, as well as HIV in Pregnancy.

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