THE number of people regularly checking for HIV could increase if Australia follows the UK in legalising home test kits, say leading HIV health promotion agencies.
The US has allowed the sale of the over-the-counter kits since 2012.
ACON chief executive Nicholas Parkhill called for the DIY kits to be made available in Australia.
“ACON strongly supports the introduction of this option for gay men and we will continue to advocate at a Federal Government level to expedite the introduction of home-based testing in Australia,” he said.
“The goal of the current NSW HIV strategy is to end HIV transmission in NSW by 2020, and we can do it but only if we significantly increase testing rates among gay men.
“We believe that the introduction of home-based testing will be crucial to achieving the scale of testing required.”
The home testing kits are rapid HIV tests which work through the analysis of a self administered saliva swab.
The result can be easily read by someone with no medical knowledge.
Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre (VAC) chief executive Simon Ruth said home testing kits were already being purchased online and imported into Australia so the demand existed: “The approval of HIV rapid testing has been a major step forward and home testing would allow people further options.”
However, any move to legalise the swab kist for home use in Australia was some way off with no manufacturer having yet lodged an applications with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Nevertheless, some gay men in Sydney and Melbourne already have access to the home testing oral swab kits through the FORTH trial run by the Kirkby Institute in partnership with ACON and VAC.
“The aim of the study is to see whether having access to home based rapid HIV testing kits improves the frequency of HIV testing, especially amongst those considered to be infrequent testers and men who have never tested for HIV before,” Ruth said.
While the kits have yet to be approved for home use, the same technology is available at rapid testing sites including ACON’s a[TEST] facilities in Newtown and Surry Hills.
“Rapid testing takes under 30 minutes, which includes getting the results, so it’s easy as to know now what your HIV status is and take any action you need to protect the health of yourself and your partner or partners,” Parkhill said.