Charity welcomes legalisation of self-test kits for HIV
It is legal to buy self-test HIV kits here from today.
Northern Ireland's only dedicated HIV charity, Positive Life, welcomed the move but also warned of possible negative impacts of testing at home.
Up until now, the only way a person could find out if they had the virus was by going to their doctor, a genito-urinary clinic, some community and voluntary organisations, or at a number of private clinics.
It is hoped the removal of the ban will mean more people with HIV are diagnosed earlier.
Positive Life CEO Jacquie Richardson said: "Ninety-four new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Northern Ireland in 2014.
"An estimated 809 people are currently living with HIV in Northern Ireland - a rise of nearly 10% compared with the previous year.
"A major issue or trend with HIV in Northern Ireland is late diagnosis.
"Testing for HIV is a difficult step that some people cannot face with their GP or at their local GUM clinic.
"Self-testing will enable people to test in the privacy of their own homes, empowering them to take a test but also likely revealing earlier diagnoses and earlier treatment, reducing the prevalence of HIV in the years to come."
However, Ms Richardson said testing at home could result in additional emotional stress.
"We would encourage those who test reactive for HIV to ensure they seek both medical and emotional support as soon as possible," she added.
"There is also the unknown risk of a possible false result and a lack of understanding that there is a window period where infection is present but may not be detected by the test.
"If either of these outcomes occur, someone may be falsely reassured that they are not affected by HIV."
The BioSure HIV self-test is the only instant result self-test kit that has been approved for sale in the UK. It is available only online.