Health officials here are concerned that a number of Barbadians are turning to unauthorized providers for HIV rapid testing the diagnostic tests which use either blood sample or oral fluids, and which produces results within 20 to 30 minutes.
The Ministry of Health has issued an advisory warning that only healthcare providers sanctioned by the ministry are authorized to conduct the test.
The advisory is in response to reports made to the ministry about members of the public receiving inaccurate results after being tested by unauthorized providers, the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) said in a release issued this evening.
“The Ministry of Health is strongly advising that members of the public should not have HIV rapid tests done at private medical facilities unless those facilities have been certified by the Ministry. The National HIV Testing Policy clearly stipulates that HIV rapid testing may only be done by personnel who are trained and certified to conduct such tests,” it quotes Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John as saying.
The BGIS release said while tests may appear to be simple, they were highly prone to error, which could occur at any point in the testing process, either with the equipment or by the person performing the test.
It also quoted Dr St John as explaining that the ministry had gone through a validation process to determine to the reliability of the test kits used here, and it had found that not all kits had reached the minimum standard of accuracy.
As a consequence, some HIV rapid test kits led to a higher rate of false results than others, even if they were used correctly, based on the manufacturer’s instructions, the BGIS said.
“The two types of HIV rapid tests currently being used by the Ministry of Health have been validated and there is an ongoing quality assurance programme to maintain accuracy of test results.
“Such rigorous quality monitoring is not done for HIV rapid tests done beyond the auspices of the Ministry of Health. This is why the ministry has taken a very stringent stance on the use of this technology in Barbados to protect the health of the public,” it quoted the Chief Medical Officer as saying.
The HIV rapid testing programme started in 2010 and by the end of 2016 just over 13,000 tests had been done, the majority of whom were women, the BGIS quoted Senior Medical Officer with responsibility for the HIV programme Dr Anton Best as saying.
The Ministry of Health carries out HIV rapid testing at select polyclinics, the Ladymeade Reference Unit and for community outreach events.