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Umesh Modi is a chartered accountant, and Pamini Jatheeskumar is a chartered certified accountant at Silver Levene...
  Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead...
Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead pharmacist, Health and Wellbeing Directorate, Public Health England
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HIV-self-testOctober 8 2014

A consultation on whether HIV self-resting kits should be available for sale directly to the public is underway in Northern Ireland.

HIV kit sales to the public have been made legal elsewhere in the UK, but Northern Ireland has yet to make any legal changes

Announcing the consultation, health minister Jim Wells said: “Removing the ban on the sale of HIV self-testing kits would give people more choice on how to get tested, which will allow for earlier diagnosis and timely access to appropriate care and treatment and ultimately improve health outcomes for those living with HIV.

“All self-testing kits would be subject to strict regulatory control by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority before they are authorised for sale.”

Chief Medical Officer, Michael McBride, added: “At present, a registered medical practitioner must provide HIV testing. Unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to HIV, some people are reluctant to use existing testing services.

“Increasing the options for safe and effective HIV testing is important to help reduce undiagnosed HIV and prevent onward transmission by people who do not know they have HIV.”

There were 639 people diagnosed with HIV and living in Northern Ireland receiving HIV-related care during 2012, with 95 new HIV diagnoses made.

“Prevalence of HIV in Northern Ireland remains lower than in the rest of the UK. However, between 2000 and 2012, Northern Ireland had the highest percentage increase in annual new diagnoses of HIV, compared to the rest of the UK,” says the consultation.

The document points out that the current regulations banning the sale of self-test HIV kits to the public were made in 1992, and pre-date the introduction of effective HIV treatments. There is also concern that self-test kits are being bought over the internet, and are unregulated.

If the restrictions are lifted, “any HIV self-testing kits sold here would have to comply with existing regulations which are applicable to kits used to test human samples such as blood or saliva. The regulatory framework of CE marking ensures that all test kits are safe to use and perform as intended by the manufacturer.”

It is expected that if self-test kits are made available in Northern Ireland it could increase demand on genito-urinary medicine clinics due to an increase in eth number of confirmatory tests.

While health professionals are thought to be generally in favour of increasing the availability of self-tests kits, it is understood that manufacturers may have some reservations as kits may be sold without any counselling.

Links:

Northern Ireland Executive statement

DHSSPS consultation on HIV kits

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