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HIV gum test 'just as effective as traditional blood screening'
The OraQuick, made by OraSure Technologies can give an HIV reading in 20 minutes
A gum swab test used to diagnose HIV is just as accurate as the traditional blood screening, according to a new study.
Researchers at McGill University, Quebec, who compared five worldwide studies, found it was 99 per cent accurate for HIV in high risk populations and 97 per cent accurate in low risk populations.
The OraQuick HIV1/2 does not use saliva, but rather absorbs antibodies directly from the blood vessels in the mucous membranes of the mouth.
The test draws out HIV antibodies, if they are present, from the tissues of the cheek and gum within 20 minutes.
Study leader Dr Nitika Pant Pai, at McGill University, said: 'Testing is the cornerstone of prevention, treatment and care strategies.
'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.'
The study, published in this week's issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, has major implications for countries that wish to adopt self-testing strategies for HIV.
The oral HIV test has become one of the most popular tests because of its acceptability and ease of use. It is non-invasive, pain-free, and convenient.
'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', said Dr Pai.
HIV virus as seen through a microscope
High risk populations fuel the expansion of HIV epidemics but they face widespread discrimination, violence and social marginalisation from healthcare services.
UNAIDS estimates that globally, 90 per cent of men who have sex with men lack access to the most basic sexual health services.
'”Oral HIV tests can be a powerful tool for high risk populations, but self-testing must be accompanied by linkage to care to achieve good health outcomes,' said the study's co-author Dr Rosanna Peeling, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.