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Knowing about HIV Antibody Test

Comparison of conventional test, rapid test, and self-testing

Conventional test refers to taking blood from a vein and sending the specimen to a laboratory where trained technicians perform the test, followed by confirmatory tests if necessary.

Rapid test refers to obtaining a blood drop from a finger-prick (or oral fluid by swabbing the gums), performing the test on-site and reading the result in about 20 minutes by a healthcare worker or community worker.

HIV self-testing refers to the process by which a person who collects a specimen, performs a test and interprets the test result in private wants to know his or her HIV status. The procedure of HIV self-testing and rapid test is the same. The only difference is that self-testing requires the users to read and interpret the results by themselves.

The following table shows the advantages and disadvantages of these methods:

  Conventional test Rapid test Self-testing
Cost
  • Government service (AIDS Hotline) and some of the local AIDS NGOs provide free services
  • Free in local AIDS NGOs and Government service (AIDS Hotline)
  • Users have to purchase the test kits by themselves
Privacy and confidentiality
  • Anonymous and confidential in local AIDS NGOs and AIDS Hotline of Department of Health
  • Requires personal information if done in hospitals or clinics other than the above
  • Anonymous and confidential in local AIDS NGOs and AIDS Hotline of Department of Health
  • Greater privacy with total self control
Turnover time and accuracy of result
  • Confirmatory result available in 5-7 days and it is a definitive diagnosis
  • Result available in 20-30 minutes. Positive results require another confirmatory test
  • Misinterpretation is not common as test performers are trained to provide the testing service
  • Self-testing result available in 20-30 minutes. Positive results require another confirmatory test
  • Risk of misinterpretation of results by users themselves
Accuracy (Sensitivity and specificity)
  • Very high accuracy, gold-standard
  • High accuracy in trained hands
  • Accuracy slightly reduced in untrained hands
  • Risk of procedure error
Window period
  • shorter window period as 4th generation technique is currently used in Hong Kong government laboratory
  • Shorter window period especially when 4th generation kits are used
  • Longer window period if lower generation kits are used
Counselling, support service and linkage to care
  • Good
  • Good
  • Risk of insufficient counselling and support service
  • Lack of / delayed linkage to care
Other advantages and disadvantages - -
  • ✓ Greater convenience in time and space