Earlier this week, the medical industry has released the very first at-home HIV testing kits in the UK.
Available online, the tests will hopefully begin to encourage more frequent testing in concerned patients.
The test works in a very similar way to a home pregnancy test. With the patient using a pin prick of blood to asses whether the HIV antibodies are prevalent within the sample.
What makes this do-it-yourself kit different, is the fact that it does not need to be sent off for testing. Instead, a result is shown within 15 minutes of the blood sample being taken.
Until now, patients concerned about their risk of contracting HIV have had to travel to a clinic in order to undergo tests, which are often seen as frightening and emotionally invasive.
This allows patients to test for the virus in the comfort of their own home. Clinicians and patients living with HIV have applauded the test, hoping that its invention will lead to earlier diagnosis and widespread prevention.
Garry Brough, a patient living with HIV, told the BBC that he welcomes the invention of an at-home kit.
“We’re now 18 years into effective antiretroviral therapy and the prognoses is incredibly good for someone living with HIV today, as long as they test early”.
Public Health England studies reveal that up to 26,000 people in the UK are unaware that they have HIV. Furthermore, in 2013, over 40% of patients in the UK were diagnosed late, which can increase the likelihood of death in the first year, to ten times that of someone who was diagnosed early.
Those who have released the test, and doctors alike, state that if this test can increase the amount of people coming forward to take the test, and seeking early treatment, then the invention is critical in HIV prevention and education.
However, the test does not work in all cases, with patients being urged to re-test if testing within a three month bracket of suspected infection.
Researchers also say that it is important for all patients with positive tests to seek re-testing at HIV clinics around the UK.
Dr Michael Brady of Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust described the availability of the test as an “exciting development”.
He said: “Rates of undiagnosed HIV and late diagnoses remain unacceptably high in the UK and continue to contribute to unnecessary illness and onward transmission of the virus.”
“…the single biggest thing that we can do to have a major impact on the HIV epidemic is to dramatically increase HIV testing rates, especially in those most at risk. The availability of HIV self-testing will help us achieve that”.