THE Department of Health is looking at ways to make its AIDS testing service more accessible to the community. Dr Lee Shui-shan, consultant physician for the department's AIDS Counselling and Health Education Service, said accessibility was one of the most important factors in any service providing blood tests for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that leadsto AIDS. The more convenient and widely available the service was, the more people would use it, he said. The normal public channels for AIDS tests in Hong Kong are the department's AIDS service at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation's centre, and government sexually transmitted diseases (STD) clinics. Dr Lee said the department's service would be moving out of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in a few months, partly to enable it to expand its hours. Currently, the service must perform all AIDS testing by about 10.30 am to enable it to catch the hospital's messenger service to Queen Mary Hospital, where the laboratory analysis is done. Dr Lee said he wanted to make the service more convenient for clients by offering longer testing hours. He is also investigating different options such as offering AIDS tests through other health care organisations, such as Family Planning Association clinics. But Dr Lee said a great deal of planning still had to be done before AIDS testing could be expanded this far. Also crucial to any good AIDS testing service was the level of counselling before and after the test, and backup services, he said. ''We don't want the service to degenerate into half-facts being given to patients, for example,'' he said. The head of the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation's testing service at Shau Kei Wan, Samson Chan Kam-wa, agreed adequate counselling was crucial. This should be done both before and after the test. ''If you have not had any psychological preparation for the possible result of the test, the pre-test counselling is very important,'' he said. Mr Chan said confidentiality was another vital element of AIDS testing services - including those provided by private doctors. ''As soon as people begin to think a service is not confidential, then they won't come for testing,'' he said. ''Then you have a buildup of hidden numbers of HIV carriers and an unnecessary spread of HIV.'' Dr Lee agreed confidentiality was important - and said patients should not be worried about having to show their identity cards at government STD clinics. ''These are specialist clinics and they function in these ways,'' he said. One quarter of all HIV infections are identified through the STD clinics. ''When they are referred to us [the Department of Health's AIDS Counselling and Health Education Service], the clinics remove all their identities. We don't know who they are,'' he said. Appointments are not necessary for government STD clinics, but they are for the foundation's service - telephone 560-8528 or 513-0513. People can attend in the evening to minimise disruption to their work. Appointments are also necessary for the service at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and can be made by phoning the hotline on 780-2211. Dr Lee admitted to experiencing problems with the hotline since the department hooked its recorded messages up to the same line, but said work was being done to resolve the difficulties. A total of 381 people are known to have been infected with HIV in Hong Kong so far, of whom 86 have developed full-blown AIDS. HIV infections are increasing in the territory by about 30 per cent a year.