November 22, 2011

UNAIDS WORLD AIDS DAY 2011 REPORT SUPPORTS HOME SELF-TESTING

Rather than comment about this, here are the exact words (see page 21 on the Annual Report):

The fact that fewer than half of those living with HIV do not know it is a huge barrier to treatment scale up and realizing the benefits of treatment for prevention. The situation in some of the worst affected areas is even more dire: a recent national study in Kenya showed only 16% of HIV-infected adults knew that they were infected.

A variety of tests, from finger pricks to mouth swabs, can now produce results in 1–20 minutes. The cost of these tests is now measured in cents. Despite the advances in technology, testing is still approached with fear, accessing clinics is inconvenient and the experience of HIV testing is often stigmatizing. One model has estimated that up to half of new HIV infections among children are caused by stigma, because women refuse to take tests or fail to collect their results. 

One option to radically shift test access is selftesting at home. Information and support could be provided remotely. Most importantly, those who tested positive would need a clear access path to health care, starting with a confirmatory test.

In September 2011, the United Kingdom’s House of Lords select committee on AIDS recommended repealing laws that prohibit home HIV testing.  The Terrence Higgins Trust has found “a clear bedrock of support” for legalizing HIV home-testing kits, particularly among gay men. iTeach, an outreach programme at Edendale Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, has been grappling with self-testing models for one of the world’s hardest hit locations28 and they have pointed to the irony that test kits are kept under lock and key because otherwise healthcare workers would access them informally – an issue examined by the World Health Organization earlier this year.

Edwin Cameron, Justice of the Constitutional Court in South Africa, is an advocate for home testing and has said that knowing your HIV status “simply ought to be a part of life”. He has said that people have a right to access accurate tests and use them in the privacy of their own home; that it won’t solve every problem of accessing treatment and care or negotiating safe sex, but is “a simple and affordable way to take the first step.”

I'm just saying...Release the Test!