Home HIV tests no suicide risk

10 February 2016 - 02:19 By Katharine Child

The South African Pharmacy Council has relaxed the regulation prohibiting chemists from selling HIV home-testing kits for private use.So South Africans concerned about their HIV status can now go to their local pharmacy and buy a home HIV test.In the past, the only way to self test would be to purchase the kit online because the law did not cover websites.The law changed in May last year but inexplicably has only just been announced by the council.When testing at home, without needing to visit a clinic, was proposed in 2010, the SA Medical Association, which represents doctors, argued against the idea.It said if people tested for HIV at home, they could become suicidal or even commit suicide in shock after a positive result.But the SA HIV Clinicians Society argued that the tests should be sold for home use so people who wanted to test privately could do so, saying it was unlikely that people would commit suicide.They argued that pregnancy could be a shocking or unwelcome result and yet home pregnancy tests were sold at pharmacies.The president of the society, Dr Francesca Conradie, yesterday welcomed the long-awaited move."The more people who know their status the better. If people choose to test themselves with a safe and quality assured test at home, it is a good idea."HIV doctor Dennis Rubel said he hoped tests would one day be sold in dispensing machines so people did not even have to ask a pharmacist for them.He said government policy was that every South African should test every six months. The lifting of the prohibition on home testing would now make this easier.In addition, many people who got a positive result went from clinic to clinic retesting up to five times as they struggled to come to terms with the initial result.So home testing would definitely help, Rubel said.

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