May 25, 2005
The leading South African supermarket chain Pick 'n Pay has agreed to suspend sales of a home HIV self-testing kit marketed by Homelab following a complaint lodged by the South African Medical Association (SAMA).
"Proper counseling is essential to assist patients in understanding exactly what the test entails and the test results," said SAMA chairperson Dr. Kgosi Letlape. For instance, most pharmacies refuse to stock such tests unless there is a qualified counselor on site. The home testing kits could also be abused by employers, insurance companies, and immigration authorities and used without regard to patient consent or confidentiality, SAMA said.
A Pick 'n Pay franchise sold the kits without the company's permission, said Jonathan Ackerman, the chain's marketing manager. However, he supported the idea of stocking the item and said the company is "looking into" the possibility of carrying the kits in the future, while complying with the appropriate guidelines.
South Africa has no law governing self-test kits. Nonetheless, health department regulations require that "rapid HIV testing must be conducted according to the same ethical standards as for any other HIV test including pre- and post-test counseling, informed consent, privacy, confidentiality, and the right of refusal."
Homelab Director Andrew Nathaniel vouched for the test's accuracy, according to the South African Star newspaper, but added that "people using the product still need to go to a doctor or a laboratory to have a diagnostic test."