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SNS 24

Rapid screening tests for HIV, HBV and HCV infections

( Updated at 09/04/2024 )
7 minutes of reading

What are quick tests?

These are tests that rapidly detect antibodies to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C Virus ( VHC), through a few drops of blood after a finger prick. They are also known as point of care testing for HIV, HBV and HCV infections.

Antibodies are protective proteins produced by the immune system in response to the presence of a foreign substance, the antigen.

Where can the rapid tests be performed?

Rapid tests (tests point of care) for HIV, HBV and HCV infection screening are possible in community pharmacies and clinical pathology/testing laboratories.

Who should I contact for the test?

You should go to a member of the pharmacy or laboratory team and then be directed to the service office, depending on the order of arrival.

Do I have to present my ID?

No. At no time should any identification document be requested, with full protection of anonymity. There should be no need for an appointment and the service should be on a first-come, first-served basis.

How long does the rapid test result take?

Using rapid tests allows people to receive their results approximately 30 minutes after taking the test.

What are the pre-test advices?

The information to be provided should be clear and concise, tailored to the needs of the user, and may include:

  • the routes of transmission and ways to prevent HIV, HBV and HCV infections
  • The Benefits of Testing
  • the meaning of a reactive and non-reactive test result
  • the confidentiality of the test result, as well as any information shared
  • the assessment of the individual risk of infection
  • the window period

How is my test identified?

The user of the service is identified by a numerical code, which is made up of:

  • pharmacy code
  • year of achievement
  • user sort number

This code must be placed in the results bulletin to be made available to the user, which contains information about the results(s) of the tests performed.

Is it mandatory to provide any personal information to take the test?

No. The information is only collected if there is no refusal or opposition from the user and is used to monitor the activity. The user should be asked to self-complete a confidential and anonymous questionnaire. Refusal does not preclude or condition the other care procedures.

If the user agrees to fill in the questionnaire, the information collected focuses on:

  • age
  • sex
  • naturalness
  • reason for performing the test
  • history of tests and their results
  • possible risky behaviors

What are the procedures for the rapid test?

To comply with the technical requirements inherent to the performance of rapid tests:

  • the activity must be integrated into the Quality Management System of the service provider
  • The service must be carried out in a specific office, with the conditions described in joint normative circular (DGS/ACSS/INFARMED/INSA/SPMS) of 30/04/2018
  • For the purposes of registrations, the user as well as the tests performed, even if anonymized, must be numbered in order to allow their traceability
  • Sampling and testing should be carried out according to specific procedures
  • After reading and validating the results obtained in the tests, they must be recorded and transmitted in a bulletin to the user
  • Technical performance evaluation should be ensured by participation in External Quality Evaluation Programs

What is the scorecard?

The results bulletin is the document in which the following information must be recorded:

  • type of test performed (HIV – antibodies to HIV1+HIV2 (3rd generation) or antibodies to HIV1+HIV2 and p24 antigen (4th generation)
  • VHB – Hbs Antigen search
  • HCV – antibody search
  • test date(s)
  • indication of the need to repeat the test(s) at the end of the window period (if applicable)
  • Pharmacy/Clinical Pathology Laboratory/Clinical Analysis ID
  • Healthcare Provider's Signature
  • ID number or professional card of the health professional who performed the test and validated the result

The user should be informed of the importance of keeping this bulletin in his possession, not only for the referral process, but as proof of the test.

The test result was non-reactive. What now?

Having a non-reactive result means that no anti-HIV1 and anti-HIV2 antibodies and/or the p24 antigen were found. That is, you are probably not infected. However, if you have had recent risky behavior and the test was performed within the period of immunological window, you may need to repeat the test after a few weeks. You will also be advised by your professional on ways to prevent the transmission of HIV, HBV and HCV infections.

The same advice will be provided by SNS 24.

The test result was reactive. What now?

Having a reactive result means that anti-HIV1 and anti-HIV2 antibodies and/or the p24 antigen have been found. This result may mean that you are infected.

In this case, you will be referred to an appointment at a hospital of your choice where you will be done for a confirmatory test and, if the infection is confirmed, you will start treatment. This referral can be made by contacting the SNS 24 Contact Centre – 808242424 by the user, the pharmacy or the clinical pathology/clinical analysis laboratory on their behalf (the delegation of competence at the beginning of the call is guaranteed).

You will also be advised by the professional on:

  • prevention of transmission of < infectionsa style="user-select: text;" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">HIV, VHB and VHC
  • treatments available for HIV, HBV and HCV infections
  • the benefits of sharing test results between the couple and/or partners
  • other patient support (contraception, antenatal care, sexually transmitted infections, harm reduction and harm minimisation programmes for people who use drugs, TB diagnosis and treatment, among others)

What are the steps to follow after a reactive result?

After a reactive result:

  • The user should receive the report card with the result of the test(s)
  • The user must be informed that he must be accompanied by the test result form at the time of the hospital consultation and will only have to present it to the attending physician
  • The patient should be informed that a confirmatory test will be done in the hospital and, if the infection is confirmed, they will undergo further tests and start treatment
  • the user should be informed that the treatment of HIV and HCV infection is free of charge (for all users with active registration in the NHS)
  • the user must be informed that the choice of hospital is a decision of the user and can be made through the consultation of the referral network available on the ACSS website, as well as the network must be posted in the service space of the pharmacy or laboratory
  • the user must be informed that he must formalize the consultation request, by contacting the SNS Contact Center – SNS 24, by the number 808242424, and for this it is necessary to identify himself
  • if the user needs support in formalizing the consultation request, the telephone contact to the SNS Contact Center – SNS 24 can be made by the pharmacy/laboratory, and the user must affirm the delegation of competence at the beginning of the call
  • the user must be informed that for consultation requests registered through the SNS Contact Center – SNS 24, they must wait for the contact of the destination institution to inform them of the appointment scheduling date
  • The user must be informed that the consultation must take place within 7 calendar days after the date of registration of the consultation request
  • The user must also be informed that he or she can obtain information on HIV/AIDS, HBV and HCV through the SNS Contact Centre – SNS 24 – by the number 808242424, and it is not necessary to identify him or her for this purpose.

What are the main differences between the HIV self-test and the rapid HIV, HBV and HCV screening test?

They are both simple and rapid response tests (less than 30 min), but the self-tests are performed by the user himself and the rapid tests (point of care) are done by a health professional (pharmacy, clinical pathology/clinical analysis laboratory, health center, counseling and early detection center) or by a person specifically trained within the framework of community projects.

So far there are only self-screening tests for HIV infection. It is possible to do HBV and HCV screening tests through rapid tests, but only in pharmacies, clinical pathology/clinical analysis laboratories or in some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

What is the role of SNS 24 in this process?

SNS 24 – 808242424 – provides information and advice on:

  • risk behaviors
  • the routes of transmission and ways to prevent HIV infection
  • preventive measures
  • the meaning of the test results and the < perioda style="user-select: text;" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">immunological window
  • the next steps depending on the result obtained
  • information about hospitals with suitable appointments (address and hours)

SNS 24 makes the referral to the hospital consultation, both in the case of a self-test for screening for reactive HIV infection, and in the case of a rapid screening test for HIV, HBV and reactive HCV infections.

Joint Normative Circular DGS/ACSS/INFARMED/INSA/SPMS of 08/24/2018

Operation Manual


List of diagnostic devices for rapid tests

Source: Directorate-General for Health (DGS)

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