Rapid malaria diagnosis, a key component of malaria control strategies, is hampered by the expense and training requirements of reliable microscopy. Rapid malaria antigen tests may improve the diagnosis of malaria in the rural tropics. After 1 h training 64 village health volunteers (VHVs) from rural Laos, with no previous laboratory experience, performed two malaria rapid diagnostic tests (ParacheckPf(TM) and OptiMAL(TM)) accurately. The reliability of six VHVs was assessed longitudinally, over 10 months with different frequencies of retraining. Compared with microscopy, error rates in dipstick interpretation were low (<2%) for both tests and were not associated with retraining frequency (P > 0.2). Previously untrained Lao VHVs performed malaria rapid tests reliably with high sensitivity and specificity after minimal training.