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25 January 2012
Saliva HIV test ready for primetime
by George Atkinson

A saliva test used to diagnose HIV is comparable in accuracy to the traditional blood test, according to a new assessment by researchers at McGill University.

The analysis showed that the test - OraQuick HIV1/2 - had the same accuracy as the blood test for high-risk populations, although the test sensitivity was slightly reduced for low risk populations. Specifically, the saliva test is 99 percent accurate for HIV in high risk populations, and about 97 percent in low risk populations. The results appear in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

"Testing is the cornerstone of prevention, treatment and care strategies," says the study's lead author Dr. Nitika Pant Pai. "Although previous studies have shown that the oral fluid-based OraQuick HIV1/2 test has great promise, ours is the first to evaluate its potential at a global level."

Traditional HIV testing is acknowledged to be problematic. It is estimated that 90 percent of men who have sex with men lack access to the most basic sexual health services. Additionally, men can face widespread discrimination, violence and social marginalization.

"Getting people to show up for HIV testing at public clinics has been difficult because of visibility, stigma, lack of privacy and discrimination. A confidential testing option such as self-testing could bring an end to the stigmatization associated with HIV testing," suggests Dr. Pant Pai. "There is a huge global momentum for alternate HIV self-testing strategies that can inform people of their status."

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Source: McGill University Health Centre

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