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By Carys Mills

Students who rely on Ryerson’s Health Centre for HIV testing will have to go elsewhere to get the latest and fastest testing technology.

Rapid HIV testing takes blood samples by pricking a patient’s finger instead of drawing blood intravenously and produces results on the spot, saving patients the two week wait for off-site lab results. But it won’t be available at the Health Centre any time soon.

“In terms of bringing the rapid test here, more research needs to be done in terms of effectiveness for Ryerson,” said Joelle Carmichael, Ryerson’s health promotion nurse.

The University of Ottawa starts its pilot program Oct. 8, making it the first post-secondary institution in Ontario to offer free rapid HIV testing to students. Claudine Guiete, the U of O’s coordinator of peer education and the resource centre, said the technology will make testing accessible to students, relieve stressful waiting times for many and promote sexual health education.

The rapid test technology was approved by Health Canada’s Medical Devices Bureau in October 2005.

Ontario’s rapid testing program is the first in Canada and was announced in June 2007, according to Ken English, the Ministry of Health’s AIDS Bureau Senior Policy Analyst. The benefit of the rapid test, he said, is that patients who are HIV negative won’t have to wait two stressful weeks to find out the results.

Carmichael said she is concerned about the test giving a false positive result and the stress created for patients who test positive with the rapid test and still have to wait for the regular test to confirm the results.

English said both tests have a 99.6 per cent accuracy rate which means that in 1,000 tests there are four false positives. The rapid test does not yield false negative results unless the testing is done within three months of being infected when the patient is not yet reactive to the virus.

If Ryerson students want the rapid test done, they are referred to the Hassle Free Clinic, located at Gerrard and Church streets.

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