UK: Sexual health charities welcome legalisation of HIV self-testing kits

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Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and the National AIDS Trust (NAT) have both welcomed the UK Department of Health’s announcement that the sale of HIV self-testing kits is to be made legal.

Since 1992, the sale of self-testing kits for HIV has been illegal in the UK. Kits can currently be purchased over the internet, but they are unregulated, often of very poor quality and lack important information on HIV transmission and where to get support.

But officials plan to change the law so people can perform a saliva test at home in order to get a result.

THT’s Policy Director Lisa Power said: “We warmly welcome this decision, which Terrence Higgins Trust has long campaigned for. People deserve to have a choice about how and where they test for HIV and proper regulation will make self-testing a safe and supported option for many more people across the country.

“The public response to our highly successful home sampling scheme shows that many people who have never tested before, or who have been putting off a visit to a clinic, are willing to test at home.”

She added: “Currently, most HIV transmission in the UK is driven by the 25,000 people who have HIV but have not yet been diagnosed. Anything that encourages these people to test, take control of their health and get treatment is a welcome advance.”

Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, said: “Self-testing kits have an important role to play in reaching people who are uncomfortable or unable to test in a sexual health clinic or other healthcare setting.

“We know that some people are already buying poor quality self-testing kits online from overseas which is why NAT have campaigned for a change in the law.

“Legalisation is an important step to ensure that the tests available are accurate, safe and appropriately regulated.”

Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be disproportionately affected by the spread of HIV; accounting for almost half of all new cases.