News24

Call for home HIV testing kits

2010-11-02 06:55

Cape Town - Home HIV testing kits should be made widely available in South Africa, three Aids experts have urged in the latest issue of the SA Medical Journal.

Laws and policies should be changed to pave the way for the kits' distribution, said Wits University academics Marlise Richter and Dr Francois Venter, and Andy Gray, a senior lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's medical school.

"South Africa has reached a point in its Aids epidemic where individuals should be able to decide when and where they would like to test for HIV, and do so without having to involve anyone else," they said.

They said the SA Medical Association (Sama) earlier this year warned the public against HIV self-testing kits.

Risky

Sama had said it was risky for patients to test themselves "unmonitored", and warned this could lead to patients committing suicide. The warning had been echoed by the national department of health and the Treatment Action Campaign.

The three experts said however the same objections would apply to any medical self test, including the existing test for type 1 diabetes, which had been a certain death sentence before there was widespread access to insulin.

"The arguments against self-testing are largely based on vague fears with little or no evidence to support them," they said.

"It would seem sensible to provide increased access to HIV testing in a facilitatory way, encouraging people to access care in a way that suits them, rather than based on a model that encourages unnecessary 'Aids exceptionalism' and fear-mongering."

They said it seemed that at present there was no legal impediment to supermarkets selling HIV testing kits, but that pharmacists were prevented by their code of practice from stocking them. There was no mechanism to regulate the quality and reliability of any self-tests, a matter which should be addressed urgently.