Five rapid, visually read assays for detection of antibody against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) were evaluated on fresh serum samples from 4000 prospective blood donors at Mama Yemo Hospital, Kinshasa, Zaïre. The sensitivity of the assays, based on 214 specimens positive by western blot, ranged from 84·6% to 99·1%. The specificity, based on 3664 samples negative by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or western blot, ranged from 92·7% to 98·8%. Three readers scored each test result independently; disagreement about test interpretation occurred in 1·2-8·3% of the specimens. There was no correlation between assay performance and assay principle (agglutination or dot immunobinding) or antigen source (viral lysate or recombinant). Assays such as these can be readily implemented in a developing country transfusion centre, where blood screening by ELISA is not practicable.
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