Expatriate medical insurance customers may wish to have a saliva test to see whether they have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), following an investigation that found this can be just as accurate as an analysis of blood.
The study, which was led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal and published in journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, could prove to have substantial benefits to sufferers in high-risk populations.
Among these people, saliva tests are 99 per cent accurate, with this figure slightly lower at 97 per cent among individuals with a smaller chance of contracting the condition.
Those who have the highest likelihood of being infected with HIV, such as homosexual males, can face social marginalisation, discrimination and violence in some countries, making it difficult for them to access proper healthcare.
Scientists believe these findings could assist nations that intend to roll-out HIV self-testing strategies, as the oral examination is simple to use and considerably more socially acceptable than blood tests.
It is pain-free, non invasive, convenient and fast, producing results in as little as 20 minutes.
Lead author of the study Dr Nitika Pai, medical scientist and assistant professor of medicine at McGill University, has been supported with a Grand Challenges Canada's Rising Star in Global Health Award.
She noted it can be difficult to get people to undertake public HIV examinations, due to issues such as discrimination and the lack of privacy.
"A confidential testing option such as self-testing could bring an end to the stigmatisation associated with HIV testing," the scientist remarked.
Dr Pai said many other studies have indicated the saliva HIV test OraQuick HIV1/2 has "great promise", adding: "Ours is the first to evaluate its potential at a global level."
HIV gradually kills the immune cells in the body, leaving humans too weak to combat other illnesses.
It is generally transmitted through unprotected sex and is only passed on through infected breast milk, semen, vaginal fluids or blood.
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