An HIV expert has warned of the dangers of shoddy tests after it emerged that Australians are ordering HIV tests online for home use.
A number of overseas websites are already advertising HIV rapid test kits to Australians for home use, some for as little as $30.
In a new advisory statement, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) revealed HIV rapid test kits could be legally imported into Australia for personal use.
Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) CEO Levinia Crooks told the Star Observer that anybody could set up a website selling HIV tests.
“One of the big concerns… is do you know that the supplier that you’re purchasing from is a reliable supplier?” Crooks said.
“You might get a test that is completely dodgy and has nothing in it that could do a test and you’re not going to know.
“The TGA followed up on a claim recently, one of the companies was saying ‘registered in Australia’ – now that’s a false claim.
“If they’re making those sorts of false claims, it just makes you wonder what other false claims might be being made.”
Crooks said the other big concern was people conducting individual tests on their own and getting a positive result, a concern she said had been echoed by clinical and community colleagues.
“What about that person who gets a positive result when there is no one else there?” she said.
Home tests may work for people who test regularly and are aware of the risks, as well as people who do not get tested in a clinical setting, Crooks said.
Some rapid tests can be used for self-use but can only be bought from overseas websites, given Australian authorities cannot legally regulate them.
The TGA warned that HIV self-testing could produce unreliable and false results.
Last month, the US regulator approved OraQuick, the first ever over-the-counter HIV home-use rapid test.
The test involves a saliva swab and can produce results between 20-40 minutes with an expected performance of 92 percent when HIV is present.
Alternatively, it has a 99.98 percent test specificity when HIV is not present.
Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) executive director Rob Lake said the websites selling home tests had been around for a while.
He said the fact HIV rapid testing was not yet trialled in Australia but Australians could already legally use home tests was a policy contradiction, and that it heightened the pressure on federal, state and territory governments to investigate rapid testing options.
“Our priority in Australia is rapid HIV testing in both clinical and community-based settings,” Lake said.
“What’s happened is the home test has been approved in the meantime but our priority remains getting rapid testing approved.
“People need to understand this is not a confirmatory test, people need to have a follow-up test to be sure.”