July 6, 2012
The US Food and Drug Administration's July 3rd approval of an at-home HIV test kit is being lauded by HIV advocates in Britain and beyond.
"We are absolutely delighted at the announcement. It marks a real sea change," said Lisa Power of the Terrance Higgins Trust. The test, which should become available to US consumers through 30,000 retail outlets, offers an important way for Americans to learn their HIV status in a private setting, said Dr. Mariangela Simao of UNAIDS, who hopes home-testing could become available in developing countries. "Any means that can ensure people have access and opportunities to be tested and that are not mandatory should be encouraged," said Simao.
But in Britain, a change in the law would be needed for at-home HIV tests, which were made illegal in the early days of the epidemic to prevent employers from testing their employees. Last September, a House of Lords select committee on AIDS recommended the law's repeal -- a call echoed by the National AIDS Trust (NAT).
"We need to work out a way of integrating this new and exciting technology effectively and safely into our testing strategies so that people with HIV are diagnosed as early as possible and can live long and healthy lives," said Deborah Jack, NAT's chief executive. "It will be far better for the government to legalize and ensure the quality of such kits and that proper information, advice and support are available alongside their use, than for people to access such unlicensed testing kits via the Internet."