HIV and sexual health charity Herts Aid has welcomed the legalisation of home HIV testing kits, which from today (Friday) can be sold legitimately online or over the counter in pharmacies.
The kits have to go through a regulatory process before sale and while none are available to buy immediately, legalisation is a positive step forward. It’s hoped that kits will be available by the end of the year.
Until now, it has been illegal to test for HIV at home and read the result yourself (although you can take a sample, send it off for testing and receive the result at a later date). Now the change in the law means people will be able to use a test at home which will check for HIV antibodies and give a quick result.
Home testing has some drawbacks, as there is no face-to-face support in the case of a positive result, it may not detect very recent infections as accurately as a blood test and there is no option to test for other sexually transmitted infections.
Almost one in four people living with HIV don’t know they have it. The majority of new infections are as a result of people unwittingly passing the virus on, so home testing could also lead to fewer new infections.
Suzanne Bannister, director at Herts Aid said: "Although you can’t go out and buy a kit right now, this change in the law means you’re likely to be able to do that soon. Some people prefer to test for HIV at home and with high levels of undiagnosed HIV, anything that encourages people to take a test is welcome.
"However you decide to test, it’s better to know your status. HIV is not the death sentence it once was and if your result is positive Herts Aid can offer advice and support to help you adjust to your diagnosis."
Samantha Hill, lead HIV consultant at Watford General Hospital’s sexual health clinic said: "Many people still don't realise that there is fantastic treatment available for HIV. The key thing is early diagnosis so that those with the infection can start treatment as soon as they need it, preventing complications.
"I would encourage anyone who is interested in having a test to attend their local sexual health centre, GP or community testing organisation, such as Herts Aid because you will be able to ask questions and receive support immediately should your test be reactive.
"However, I also appreciate that for many people it's difficult to get to a clinic so there’s a role for home testing: for those who are unable to attend in person and also for those who are at risk to test more frequently than they would usually be able to."
To find your nearest sexual health clinic visit www.sexualhealthhertfordshire.co.uk.
To speak to anyone about HIV testing, HIV or sexual health, call Herts Aid on 01923 803440 or 01920 484784 or visit www.hertsaid.co.uk