The testing process for HIV infection in Taiwan has been streamlined as 12 hospitals nationwide on Monday began to offer anonymous diagnoses within an hour, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said.
The new “one-stop” rapid HIV testing service, which detects HIV antibodies in the blood, gives a preliminary result in 20 minutes, it said.
Patients who test positive for the virus are then immediately given a second test that gives a final result within 30 minutes, meaning the process is completed in under an hour, CDC Chronic Infectious Diseases Division head Huang Yen-fang said.
Treatment for those who test HIV-positive can begin the same day, Huang said told a news conference promoting the new process that hospitals in Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung have started to provide.
Another 47 hospitals have started to provide anonymous, preliminary same-day testing services and would send those whose tests are positive to other medical facilities for a final diagnosis, Huang said.
The test kits used by the new service are the same as used before, when it took two to three weeks for HIV-infected people to receive treatment after taking the initial test, the CDC said.
Under the previous system, appointments were also required for a second test and subsequent treatment, which increased the risk of the virus spreading, it said.
CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo said that 610 people tested HIV-positive last year in initial tests, but 99 did not return to a hospital for final confirmation.
The new “one-stop” testing service would bridge the time gap between diagnosis and treatment, allowing more patients to receive timely medical and psychological support, the CDC said.
People who have had sexual intercourse should take at least one HIV test in their lifetime, Huang said, adding that people who have had unsafe sex should take at least one HIV test every year.
As of the end of last month, there were about 39,000 people with HIV in Taiwan and more than 18,000 of them have developed AIDS, CDC statistics showed.