Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Call to legalise HIV home test kits

The Department of Health is considering the policy on HIV home testing and whether it needs to repeal regulations

Almost two-thirds of people would consider using HIV home testing kits if they were legally available and regulated, according to a survey.

The poll, by Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), comes as the charity urged the Government to legalise and regulate home testing in a bid to cut the number of cases of undiagnosed HIV in the UK.

The sale of HIV home testing kits is currently illegal in the UK. While they can be bought over the internet, THT says they are unregulated, often of poor quality and do not direct users to places where they can get support.

Of 490 people surveyed who have not tested HIV-positive, 63% said they would consider using the kits if they were legalised and 51% thought legalisation would make them test more often.

Among gay men, one of the groups most at risk of HIV in the UK, 60% thought legalisation would make them test themselves more often.

In 2009, 22,200 people were estimated to be living with undiagnosed HIV in the UK.

Lisa Power, policy director for THT, said: "Reducing undiagnosed HIV is a major challenge. A quarter of those with HIV in the UK remain undiagnosed, and so are more likely to pass the virus on. One way to bring this number down is by increasing the opportunities for people to test outside of traditional settings."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "We are considering our current policy on HIV home testing and whether we need to repeal the current regulations.

"Key to any repeal will be the availability of a quality-assured testing kit suitable for home use. We are working with the THT and others in taking forward our review.

"HIV testing is widely available from open-access NHS sexual health clinics. Our advice is clear - if you think you might be at risk from HIV, contact your local sexual health service or your GP for a test."

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