Tuesday , 20 August 2019

UK HIV Self Test Kits go on sale

The first officially licensed HIV Self Test Kits in the UK have now gone on sale.

The kits, manufactured by BioSure, have been approved last month after legislations were amended to legalise self-testing.

This blood-based test is, according to BioSure, is 99.7 percent accurate, and carries the ‘CE’ European quality assurance mark that represents approval by European quality testers.

The kit, that costs £29.95, requires a small drop of blood and gives the tester a result within a mere 15 minutes.

Commenting on the news, HIV Scotland CEO George Valiotis said: “These new self-test kits should help more people get tested for HIV – especially those in rural areas or those who would prefer not to go to their GP or local clinic. Estimates suggest that as many as 25% of people living with HIV in Scotland don’t know they have the virus, so increasing testing is critical, especially given that if people with HIV get on treatment quickly, they can become un-infectious and live long, active lives.

“We want Scotland to step up all activity to prevent HIV, and to make sure those who do have HIV are diagnosed quickly. Self-test kits are an important new development, but there’s lots more Scotland can and should be doing to remove barriers that stop people getting tested, and to prevent new cases of HIV: from ceasing stigmatising attitudes about HIV to increasing the availability and flexibility of free NHS testing services.”

Valiotis continued: “The new BioSure kits are the first to reach the standards needed for the European ‘CE’ quality mark. While other kits might be available online, without a quality mark there’s no way to know they are safe or reliable. It’s also important for anyone who uses the kits to follow the instructions carefully so they get an accurate result, and if the kit tells you you may have HIV, get the result confirmed with a follow up test at your GP or sexual health clinic.”

Alastair Rose Head of Operations of Gay Men’s Health told KaleidoScot:“This is another exciting development in the field of HIV prevention, treatment and care. It provides an additional route into testing and vitally those people who are at risk to know their status. It is important for all men who have sex with men to have a regular full sexual health screen through using the large network of services available throughout Scotland. We also urge men to continue to take steps to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, the best way to do this is by using condoms and lubricant correctly along with looking after their individual physical, emotional and mental wellbeing and having regular sexual health checkups.”

“We are lucky in Scotland to have a number of community based organisations that can provide quality support and information regarding HIV risk, testing and support for those living with HIV. This is complemented by an extensive network of sexual health services provided by the NHS throughout the country.”

Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, reacted: “We campaigned for a long time to secure the legalisation of HIV self-test kits which happened in April 2014, so it is great to see the first self-test kits being approved.

“Self-testing kits are currently provided outside the NHS and will cost money. The main difference between this and other testing options is that it gives the convenience of doing an HIV test at home, with the result delivered outside a clinical setting, which we know some people prefer. However, it is important to make sure people can get quick access to support when they get their result.

Deborah Gold, of the National AIDS Trust stated: “We currently have a long way to go when it comes to diagnosing people with HIV on time.

“Over 40% of people living with HIV are diagnosed late, meaning they have been living with HIV for at least four years.

“People diagnosed late are 11-times more likely to die in the first year after diagnosis. To address this public health challenge we need to look at new ways for people to test and self-testing is an important and welcome additional option.”

However, some health professionals and LGBTI people have raised concerns.

Nicola Hunter Page, a contributor for KaleidoScot stated: “I like the privacy aspect of it, however without any medical/professional overview it seems it may be creating its own problems.

“Aftercare and counseling is incredibly important when being tested, regardless of the results. As with most self-testing kits, we need to consider the ease of abuse and the lack of professional service with it.

“What if people carry fake negatives to convince potential partners? What if someone gets a positive and they decide to ignore it or assume it is a false positive? “

Peter Shapcott, a retired HIV counselor and health professional and former director of the Eddie Surman Trust told KaleidoScot “Personally, I’m totally against them.

“One of my main concerns is what happens to someone if it is positive and they can’t deal with it. I think support and counselling is essential, especially dealing with such a situation but also regarding safe-sex practices given a negative result.

“I am also concerned about misuse of the test or coercion and how it could potentially used to harm people.”

Other commentators have expressed concerns over potential risks of HIV status being made public or/and in breach of right to privacy as well as the potential of misuse of this information by individuals/companies.

Still others pointed to the possibility of risk of point-of-sex testing to screen potential sex partners, which would not only create potential for more prejudice but also for risky behaviour as the test only picks up the virus after three months of incubation.

Another important concern was the possibility that these tests could spark increased risk for discrimination and stigma, especially for key groups such as: People who are uneasy/in conflict about their sexuality and or gender identity – Domestic or migrant workers – Adolescents – Vulnerable family members such as children and married women- Sex workers – Partners and couples, including those getting married or those in abusive relationships.

About Dan Littauer

Dan Littauer is a journalist who specializes in LGBTI current affairs, travel writing, feature writing and investigative journalism. He is a correspondent for LGBTQ Nation, ManAboutWorld, and previously worked for Gay Star News, PinkNews, San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, Gay Middle East, Lonely Planet as well as contributing occasionally to the BBC, Al-Jazeera, CNN and The Guardian. He also had an extensive career outside journalism, which included teaching psychoanalysis and social science, and consultancy work for the travel market. When he is not busy writing, he can be spotted rambling around the stunning Scottish landscape, where he lives, spending time at home with his cat.

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4 comments

  1. And if someone kills themself's because they get a negative result , how you going to explain that one

    • That's a very good point. That's why I believe counselling and aftercare are incredibly important with any result. Self testing can make someone feel very alone, and anyone will even a slight obsessive disorder may take the test over and over again, regardless of the result. Mentally that would be crushing, and the only people that would benefit is the company selling the tests.

      Nicola

  2. It would be good to hear from those in power how the abuse of these in the sex industry is going to be prevented. all we hear is spin – the more tools in the 'combination' prevention box the better. Anyone who questions that is not on board with 'getting to zero'

  3. Seems to be a disagreement between idealists and pragmatists. In an ideal world everyone would access NHS services and regularly test for HIV. In doing so they'd have access to gold standard testing, after-care and treatment, and if that was the case we wouldn't have the high-levels of undiagnosed HIV, but we do. Clearly people are choosing to not access HIV testing services, and that's despite the huge investment in screening programmes.
    The fact remains, some people, for their own reasons do not want to attend NHS services, they could be partnered and having an affair; geographically isolated, have work/childcare commitments, or simply do not want anyone else (NHS staff included) to know their status at that time. So what is the choice for these people?
    Sure, recommend NHS services, and you should, as they are the best in the business, but don't criticise the alternatives that some people may find useful. Idealism shouldn't trump people's access to knowledge about their own health.
    If you have HIV it's better to know, than not know. However you find out it will have a huge emotional impact. HIV self test kits have been available in the USA for sometime now, can anyone point to research that shows them to be detrimental and show that people are committing suicide as a result of them. It could happen and that would be a terrible tragedy, but what about the benefits for others of finding out and accessing treatment sooner saving their lives or even finding out they have HIV and not passing it on to their child.
    Just because some people would want a "counsellor" telling them the result, not everyone does. There will be those who would want to know alone in the privacy of their own home and then choose who they tell in their own time.
    The point about not using HIV Self Test to sero-sort your sexual partners equally applies to NHS HIV tests. There is always a window period no matter what test you use. The issue isn't about testing or where it's performed it's what you do with this information after your result. These Self Test kits will have significant health promotion information contained within them or else would not have been granted a CE Mark for home use.

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