New test kit can detect HIV in 20 minutes
By Hasnita A. Majid, Channel NewsAsia
SINGAPORE : From next month, getting tested for the HIV virus will become easier.
All clinics and polyclinics will carry a test kit that can provide results in 20 minutes.
This is expected to pave the way for changes to legislation on HIV testing in clinics.
The kit will make testing for the HIV virus almost as easy as a pregnancy test kit.
A quick swab from a person's gums is all it takes and results are out in less than half an hour.
One line means a person is HIV-negative. Two means he is infected.
At S$38, the test kit is more expensive than the current blood test for HIV. But for now, it is not available over the counter.
This is because doctors need to be present to make sure patients understand the consequences of such a test.
They will also provide pre- and post-test counselling.
The test is more than 99 percent accurate but there is still a slim chance of a false-negative or a false-positive.
As the tests will only be allowed in a clinical setting such as hospitals, polyclinics and GP clinics, changes to legislation is expected to be announced soon.
Dr Tan Sze-Wee, MD and CEO of Rockeby Biomed, said: "In many parts of the world, HIV testing is regulated by laws and HIV testing is controlled to be performed by authorised labs, because they need to be given the assurance that they would be able to perform the test accurately and there is quality control."
An announcement on changes to Singapore's legislation to allow testing in all clinics is expected soon.
The Action for Aids hopes the test kits will encourage more people to go for HIV testing.
It said currently some people shun going to the designated Kelantan Lane clinic for anonymous HIV-testing for fear of being recognised.
Paul Toh, Executive Director of Action for Aids, said: "Some people still feel that it is uneasy to walk in and see my friends into that clinic, and whereas if you walk into a normal neighbourhood clinic you could be going for flu test or something else. That is why I think having it sold at the heartlands might be a good idea."
The Action for Aids also hopes that this will stop people from going overseas for testing.
Singapore is the first country outside the United States to carry the test kit.
The test kit is developed by American company OraSure Technologies, but Rockeby Biomed has reached an agreement with Orasure to serve as the sole distributor of the test kit.
It has plans to expand its distribution to countries in the region. - CNA/de