Rapid Point of Care HIV Testing
In 2007, the Ministry of Health established a rapid HIV point of care testing program for Ontario. Nearly 50 rapid testing sites are now active across the province at public health units, sexual health clinics and community health centres.
Ontario’s rapid HIV testing program focuses on delivering timely, accessible services to those Ontarians most at risk of HIV infection. In Ontario, we know that virtually all of the people diagnosed with HIV each year are part of just a few population groups, which are referred to as priority populations.
Rapid testing sites are often located in facilities that make access easier for members of one or more priority population. Some sites offer a spectrum of services and supports tailored to a particular population. Point of care testing sites may also be based in community-based clinics and sexual health centres where clients can receive testing for other sexually transmitted and blood borne infections (STBBI) as well as other important preventative care services. All sites are encouraged to consider and address barriers to care for Ontario’s priority populations.
Rapid testing sites have a duty to protect the confidentiality of their clients and to follow procedures that ensure the accuracy of test results as well as the confidentiality and security of testing records and the accuracy of testing procedures. Some sites offer anonymous HIV testing to further reduce barriers to testing, such as HIV stigma.
Rapid testing sites are encouraged to partner with other agencies in their community to deliver outreach testing at community events and other venues where testing can easily reach priority populations.
With rapid HIV testing, the screening test is done on-site while the client waits. Most people who test negative on the rapid test will know their HIV status within a few minutes of being tested and will not have to wait and return for their results. If a client has a reactive test, which likely indicates that they are HIV-positive, all sites can draw blood and order confirmatory testing from Ontario’s Public Health Laboratory.