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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2003: Volume 7/ Issue 18 Article 6
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 7, Issue 18, 01 May 2003

Citation style for this article: Sadler K. Rapid HIV testing central to new HIV prevention strategy in the United States. Euro Surveill. 2003;7(18):pii=2222. Available online:

Rapid HIV testing central to new HIV prevention strategy in the United States

Katharine Sadler (, Health Protection Agency Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, London, England.

On 17 April 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States announced the latest HIV prevention strategy (1). The new initiative, Advancing HIV Prevention: New Strategies for a Changing Epidemic, places emphasis on increasing access to early diagnosis of HIV infection and to prevention and care services. The strategy consists of four key parts:

  • Making HIV testing a routine part of medical care

  • Implementing new models for diagnosing HIV infection outside medical settings

  • Preventing new infections by working with persons diagnosed with HIV and their partners

  • Further decreasing perinatal HIV transmission

Working with government, state, and local health departments, the public health community, clinicians, professional medical associations, community based organisations (CBOs), and people living with HIV, the CDC initiative capitalises on the recently approved OraQuick Rapid HIV-1 Antibody Test (2). This is a simple, rapid test that can detect antibodies to HIV-1 in fingerstick whole blood specimens in as little as 20 minutes. To perform the test, a fingerstick sample of blood is collected with a specimen loop and transferred to a vial where it is mixed with a developing solution. The test device, resembling a dipstick, is then inserted into the vial, and will indicate if HIV-1 antibodies are present by displaying two reddish purple lines in a small window on the device in 20 minutes (3). With a sensitivity of 98.5% and a specificity of 100%, OraQuick is comparable to those Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved enzyme immunoassays in widespread use, and as with all HIV screening tests, every reactive result must be confirmed with an additional specific test. Unlike other rapid tests, OraQuick can be stored at room temperature, requires no specialised equipment, and can be used outside traditional laboratory or clinical settings.

The rapid test will be used in projects designed to increase access to early diagnosis of HIV infection and referral to care services in high HIV prevalence settings, including correctional facilities. New projects using the rapid test in non-medical settings will be piloted by CBOs, with the aim of targeting hard to reach populations who are at high risk of HIV infection (for example, female sex workers and intravenous drug users).

In preventing mother to child transmission, it is currently recommended that all pregnant women in the US be tested for HIV before delivery (4). Under the new initiative, and in addition to promoting these recommendations, CDC will develop guidance for using the rapid test during labour and delivery, or for any infant whose mother was not screened prenatally. Timely knowledge of the mother's HIV status provides opportunities for interventions that reduce transmission, such as caesarean section and avoiding breastfeeding. It is of interest to note that this part of the strategy is in contrast to that of the Netherlands, where it was recently decided to screen pregnant women for HIV by offering a standard laboratory test on an 'opt-out' basis, as opposed to offering a rapid test with informed consent (5).

CDC, in collaboration with other organisations, will also publish Recommendations for Incorporating HIV Prevention into the Medical Care of Persons with HIV Infection in 2003, which, with demonstration projects, will provide guidance and management for reducing HIV transmission from those persons living with HIV. There will be emphasis on partner notification, including offering rapid HIV testing to partners.

CDC states that through this initiative "every HIV infected person should have the opportunity to be tested and have access to state of the art medical care and to prevention services needed to prevent HIV transmission" (1).

References :

  1. CDC. Advancing HIV preventions: new strategies for a changing epidemic - United States, 2003. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2003; 52: 329-32. (

  2. US Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services. FDA approves new rapid HIV test kit. Press release P02-49, 7 November 2002. (

  3. US Food and Drug Administration, Centre for Biologics Evaluation and Research. Frequently asked questions about the OraQuick Rapid HIV-1 Antibody Test. 4 April 2003. (

  4. CDC. Referral and revised recommendations for HIV screening of pregnant women. MMWR Recomm Rep 2001; 50 (No. RR-19): 59-91. (

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