The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved an Australian devised and manufactured HIV home testing kit for sale.
Advocates have welcomed the news as a major step in the ongoing effort to end new HIV transmissions.
Following the TGA’s approval, it is expected the testing kit will become available for purchase within three months, but with a catch: the kits will only be available online and not in chemists.
“Sadly, stigma and embarrassment still prevents many people testing for HIV,” said Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations CEO Darryl O’Donnell.
“The arrival of this self testing device is a critical step in removing a barrier to people knowing their status.
“Self testing will add significant momentum to Australian HIV prevention efforts.
“Once people know they are HIV positive, they can commence treatment which keeps them well and prevents transmission to others.”
While overall HIV transmission rates are declining, some marginalised communities are not seeing the same decreases.
Expanding access to testing and combating stigma around HIV are seen as key components to reversing rising transmission rates in Indigenous communities and among men who have sex with men born in Asia.
Activists credit the lowering rates in specific communities, especially gay men in urban centres, in part to the roll-out of PrEP and also to increasing awareness and understanding that a person living with HIV maintaining an undetectable viral load cannot pass on the virus.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the approval alongside the release of Australia’s eighth National HIV Strategy, included in a $5 million investment towards implementation of the National Blood Borne Virus and Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategies.
“The community-led HIV response welcomes Minister Hunt’s commitment to virtual elimination of HIV transmission by 2022,” O’Donnell said.
“This is an ambitious goal, but with co-operation and determination, it is certainly achievable.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that ACON will lobby for the kits to be made available in chemists.