South London: Gay men to be offered free HIV home sampling kits when returning home from clubs

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Gay and bisexual men heading home from a night out in south London are for the first time to be offered free home sampling kits to find out their HIV status.

The initiative has been developed by Mortimer Market Centre, a sexual health clinic run by Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust and is due to launch over the Bank Holiday weekend later this month.

Street teams will offer free kits to home-going clubbers around Vauxhall in the early hours. HIV home sampling kits are already available via the internet. However, this will be the first time they have been handed out directly to a targeted group on the streets.

The aim is to reduce the levels of undiagnosed HIV in gay men in the capital.

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.

Dr Danielle Mercey, clinical director for sexual health at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Recent advances mean that there are very few sound reasons left for putting off an HIV test.

“If you are HIV-positive, knowing your status puts you in control. It allows you to get early treatment and boost your chances of having a relatively normal life-span, rather than waiting until your health worsens.

“Equally, for people who test HIV-negative, that knowledge can prevent unnecessary worry – and help them to act to stay negative.”

The UK Department of Health announced that the sale of HIV self-testing kits is to be made legal earlier this week. 

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