Pre-testing counselling before taking an HIV test can be a barrier for some, according to the makers of a new self-testing home kit which will hit pharmacies today.
BioSURE HIV Self Test is described by its makers as “South Africa’s only CE-marked HIV self-test and the first HIV test approved for use at home without a medical professional”.
It will be one of several HIV home-testing products to hit the market since February last year when Pharmacies across South Africa introduced home testing kits, which would enable people to know their status within 20 minutes.
The product was first launched in the UK in 2016 where its makers say it was the first-ever approved self-use blood HIV test.
“There has to be an increase in HIV testing and pre-test counselling is a barrier for some people so that was a consideration,” said BioSURE CEO Bridget Bard.
“You have to remember that it is a choice to go through that experience of self-testing. There has to be a change of mindset, you know how people in the past have said that if they test positive they may kill themselves or self-harm.
“There has been no evidence that people self-harm as a result of an HIV test and every HIV test has to be confirmed by a medical practitioner,” she explained.
Last year the World Health Organisation released new guidelines on HIV self-testing to improve access to and uptake of HIV diagnosis.
It estimates that 14 million people are unknowingly living with HIV. In South Africa, 7 million people are living with HIV with 1.7 million unaware that they are HIV positive.
According to the WHO, the key people least likely to voluntarily go for an HIV test were men and young people, many of whom either did not have access or the inclination to have themselves tested.
The WHO’s research also found that self-testing increased the uptake of HIV diagnosis.
‘There was enormous anxiety from a European level because the UK was the first to change legislation about allowing self-testing for HIV,” said Bard.
The company has been gathering data and working with various organisation in South Africa since last year and says it has reached an understanding with the South African Pharmacy Council.