The first legal HIV self-test kits have provoked mixed views from pharmacists.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) hoped the launch would increase early diagnosis of the infection, but pharmacists raised concerns about how patients who self-diagnosed would access treatment.
The RPS said that the kits – launched by diagnostic manufacturer BioSure yesterday (April 27) - would provide greater choice for “people who have been at risk but are reluctant to get a test in person from existing services”, said spokesperson Neal Patel.
“Many people already buy unlicensed HIV testing kits from the internet, unaware that they may well be unreliable and give false results. People should buy from a trusted source and check for the CE mark, which means it will have been assessed for quality and safety,” he said.
The HIV 'taboo'
Jignesh Patel, owner of Rohpharm Pharmacy in east London, said the “taboo” around HIV meant patients may be wary about visiting a health professional if they received a positive diagnosis from one of the kits.
“With diabetes tests, people go to their GP. With HIV, they may not want a health professional to know because it may affect their health insurance or employment. So who do they turn to?” he said.
Mr Patel, who won a C+D Award for Ropharm's HIV-testing pilot scheme, said this service took “less than one minute” to get a result and provided a “referral pathway” for any patients who tested positive.
Kevin Noble, a pharmacist at Regent Pharmacy on the Isle of Wight, shared Mr Patel’s concern that patients may choose not to “have input from a healthcare professional”.
“I’m not for or against it. If someone is taking steps to recognise they might be at risk, that’s great. But it might be that those doing a home test stick their head in the sand and end up with Aids,” he told C+D.
Neal Patel said the RPS had been assured that “legitimate, licensed kits will provide good supporting information”. “The instructions will have to be followed carefully to make sure the result is accurate and [to know] what to do next, depending on the test result,” he added.
BioSure products claims that its product is the first licensed HIV self-test kit to be made available since the law banning them was was repealed last year.
The kits, which cost £29.95, are available online from the manufacturer or via an NHS sexual health initiative run by Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. The manufacturer “did not feel there was particular demand” to stock the product in high street shops as this would remove customers’ anonymity, it said.