A simple home test for HIV is on the way in the UK.
At present it is illegal to test for HIV at home and read the result yourself, although people can take a sample themselves, send it off for testing in a laboratory and receive the result at a later date.
Now a change in the law will mean a saliva test will quickly give the user a ‘negative’ or a ‘positive indication’ result.
The Health Protection Agency says the number of people in the UK with the virus is at a record level of nearly 100,000.
But a quarter of people who have the human immunodeficiency virus don’t know they are infected.
Health experts hope that making the tests more readily available will help reduce infection rates.
Officials from the Department of Health are expected to say that home testing may help people detect their infection earlier on – which could lead to more effective treatment options and reduce the infection spreading.
Public Health Minister Anna Soubry is expected to say: ‘The stigma and fear surrounding HIV may mean that some people are afraid or reluctant to go to a clinic to be tested.
‘I hope that by removing the ban on self-testing kits people will be able to choose the right time and right surroundings to take a test and, if positive, help them get the best treatment available.
‘Clear information on how to get immediate support will be provided with the kits.”
Lisa Power, policy director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, welcomed the decision, which the charity has campaigned for.
‘The response to our highly successful home sampling scheme shows many people who have never tested before, or who have put off a visit to a clinic, are willing to test at home,’ she said.
‘Anything that encourages these people to test, take control of their health and get treatment is a welcome advance.”
Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, said: ‘With around 25,000 people in the UK living with HIV without knowing it, it is vital that we offer as many options as possible to take an HIV test.
‘Self-testing kits have an important role to play in reaching people who are uncomfortable or unable to test in a sexual health clinic or other healthcare setting.
‘We know that some people are already buying poor quality self-testing kits online from overseas which is why NAT have campaigned for a change in the law.
‘Legalization is an important step to ensure that the tests available are accurate, safe and appropriately regulated.’