Legislation Update: Self Testing for HIV

The government have amended the law so “do it yourself” home testing kits for HIV are now legal to be sold over-the-counter, however it is unlikely that kits will be available in the very near future, as no companies have yet applied for a license to sell kits within the European Union, as these were previously illegal. It is likely that self-testing kits will become available by late 2014 or early 2015.

The government hopes that the change in law will encourage more people to get tested for HIV as it is believed that up to one in five people with HIV do not realise they are infected.

This test works by checking for antibodies for HIV, an immune response that occurs if a person is infected. The test involves taking a swab of fluid from the upper and lower gums.

The swab is then placed into a supplied tube and then after 20-40 minutes either one or two lines should appear. One line means the test is negative, two means that the test may be positive. In the event of a positive test, follow up testing, from a sexual health clinic or similar is recommended.

Reliability data indicates that in a clinical trial, out of 480 people with HIV, 470 were correctly diagnosed using the home testing kit as having the infection. This gives the home testing kit rate a false negative rate of 97.9%; so out of 100 people tested, around two will wrongly be given the all clear for HIV infection.

In the same trial, 473 people known not to be infected with HIV, just one was wrongly diagnosed as having the infection. This gives the home testing kit a false positive rate of 99.79%.

Home sampling kits are also available privately on line or from pharmacies which allow a saliva sample or blood spot to be taken at home and send them off to a laboratory for testing.

More info can be found on the BBC website


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