The UK has approved the sale of HIV home test kits to be sold over the counter, however, the kits are not available in Britain yet.
This new law means that people can now legally test and diagnose themselves from the comfort of their own home.
In the past, people were able to do the tests using kits ordered online and send the test away for the results. However, the diagnosis was only obtainable by telephone.
The new law brings hope to the 25,000 undiagnosed people who are HIV-positive.
The tests that have been developed have not yet passed European guidelines, according to the government’s health regulator. Home testing for the condition gained approval during September last year, but the law was only passed on Sunday.
It has been stated that the tests may be introduced in the UK late this year or during early 2015. The UK is currently taking the lead in Europe in making these kits available to people over the counter. The kits were introduced in the US during 2012.
The tests may involve a small drop of blood being taken from the person’s finger or a swab from inside the mouth.
The Department of Health spokesperson has said that the stigma that is attached to HIV often means that people are afraid or hesitant to go to a clinic for tests. This change in the law making self-test kits available will make the testing process more discreet and convenient.
She stated that although none of the kits currently available meet European standards, they are expecting a change to this situation during the next 12 months.
She also stated that HIV testing is free on the NHS and any person with concerns should visit their doctor, the GUM clinic or they can contact the Terrence Higgins Trust helpline. Self-testing kits are available for sale.
The Medical Director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, Dr Michael Brady, has shown disappointment that the law has come into effect at a time when no viable tests are available.
The charity was recently involved in a scheme which allowed participants to test themselves in their own homes, post the results to the trust and obtain a telephonic or text diagnosis.
Dr Brady stated that they were unaware of just how popular the tests would be and demand almost outstripped supply several times. They found that 97% of the 915 users who participated said they would be prepared to use the self-test again. The charity received 3000 orders for the self-test during one weekend.
He stated that home testing is not suitable for everyone and this makes it important to offer a range of options. He also said that users should access counselling and treatment available on the NHS once they find out that they are HIV-positive by using the home test kit.
Image credit: katharine shields