10 things you need to know about HIV self-testing

05 October 2017 - 16:30 By Katharine Child
A demonstration of how to use the BioSURE HIV Self Test.
A demonstration of how to use the BioSURE HIV Self Test.
Image: Greg Roxburgh

The BioSURE HIV Self Test is now available in South Africa at select Dischem branches‚ Spar stores and Pick n Pay supermarkets making it possible for people to test their HIV status in the privacy of their homes.

TimesLIVE met with the company's founder Brigitte Bard, who flew in from the UK to market the test. She said that BioSURE were "trying to generate a shift in mind-set" making it easy and popular for people to test for HIV. 

"Not testing for HIV‚ doesn’t mean HIV isn't there‚ it just means you don't know [your status]," she said. "With HIV you can take a pill a day‚ you can have children‚ you can live a normal life."

10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE BIOSURE HIV SELF TEST:

1. It's approved by European authorities for self-testing

The BioSURE test has been approved by European authorities and temporarily approved by WHO for self-testing‚ meaning it is easy enough for anyone to use correctly and understand.

Initially, there was much reluctance about self-testing with pharmacies banned from selling such tests, but this restriction has been lifted by the Pharmacy Council.

Activists argue that women can learn if they are pregnant with a self test; this is not good news for every mother, but they cope with the result. In the same way, people will cope with the results of an HIV self test.

It is not South African law that pre- and post-test counselling have to take place‚ said Bard. That said, the test includes helpline numbers for people to get support if necessary. 

The BioSURE HIV Self Test is 99.7% accurate from three months of suspected exposure to HIV.
The BioSURE HIV Self Test is 99.7% accurate from three months of suspected exposure to HIV.
Image: Greg Roxburgh

2. It is a blood test

Squeamish people take heart, the test only takes a tiny drop of blood‚ ten times less than that used in the tests carried out by clinics. Also note‚ it is less painful to take blood from the side of your finger than the front.

Blood tests are far more sensitive than oral tests that test for HIV, and therefore more trustworthy, which is why blood is used.

Anova health staff member Riaan Norval, who did the test at the media event, said: "I am afraid of needles but I didn’t feel the prick".

3. It is super easy to use

You don’t need to mix any chemicals with your blood to do the test. It has a bright pink lancet that helps you make a tiny finger prick to produce a drop of blood, you then put the test on top of that drop of blood.

Two lines means a positive result. One line means you are HIV negative. No lines means the test didn’t work.

4. It gives results quickly

It takes a maximum of fifteen minutes‚ but in most cases it works much quicker.

5. It is 99.7% accurate

It will give correct results 997 out of 1‚000 times.

6. If the result is positive, you'll need to take a follow up test

A HIV positive test, whether done at home or with a nurse, always requires a follow up lab test using different technology.

If the follow-up test says you are positive‚ you then need to start treatment. All HIV positive South Africans qualify for HIV treatment immediately.

7. There's a window period before a test will pick up HIV

The BioSURE test checks for the antibodies that your body makes to fight HIV. There is a window period of between six weeks to three months after infection before the body starts to produce these antibodies.

8. It's safe and easy to dispose of after use

The lancet you use to prick your finger does not have anything sharp sticking out, and will kill any HIV inside it‚ so the test can just be chucked in an ordinary rubbish bin. The test comes with a plastic bag to put everything in.

9. The recommended retail price is R158

10. An accredited test will have a code on it

A European-approved HIV self test will say CE and have the code '0086' on it. Without this logo and numbers‚ it is not approved for accurate home use. - TimesLIVE

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