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UBC researcher hopes to take the stigma out of HIV testing

By Marion Benkaiouche

8/12/12 - A new HIV prevention initiative pioneered by a UBC researcher seeks to expand HIV testing beyond only at-risk communities, focusing instead on those who are at a low risk of infection or believe that they are HIV-negative.

"We're trying to take the stigma out of the equation," explains Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence and head of the AIDS division in the UBC Faculty of Medicine. "We no longer want to target HIV testing to people who are at risk, because we've done that already. We want to confirm that 99+ per cent of society is negative, but help those who don't know their status or are unsuspecting and help them get access to proper treatment."

Montaner intends to test the general public on a strictly voluntary basis. The program uses a rapid-result test that takes only 60 seconds to determine a patient's status; if the result is positive, this is confirmed by a second test run in a full lab. Anyone who has been sexually active in the last five decades could be at risk for the disease, he said.

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