As people mark World AIDS Day, some advocates in Alberta say the province has been too slow to adopt new rapid HIV testing techniques.
Other Canadian jurisdictions — including B.C. and Ontario — offer blood tests that can determine within minutes whether a patient is infected with the virus that causes AIDS. But in Alberta, HIV tests still take days, even weeks, to get completed.
Officials at Alberta Health Services said the province must be more certain the results of rapid testing are reliable before the service is made available.
The service would encourage more people to get tested, and result in better outcomes for people who are HIV-positive, said Simonne LeBlanc, the head of AIDS Calgary.
"When you look at the cost of treatment — and the numbers of people who can be infected by people who don't know their status — it makes absolutely no sense," she said.
At the Southern Alberta HIV Clinic in Calgary, almost a third of all people who come in for a test don't return to pick up their results, said its director, Dr. John Gill.
'Why is it not being used in the province of Alberta?' —Mark Randall, AIDS advocate
"And then no one can track them down, and we know that there is someone who is HIV positive. We've diagnosed it but they haven't returned for follow up," he said.
For many people, the prospect of waiting for a HIV test result is too scary, according to AIDS advocate Mark Randall, who found out he had the virus in 1988 after several agonizing weeks.
"It's just too daunting. Rapid testing is in the moment. They're ready," he said.
"Why is it not being used in the province of Alberta?"