We live by the motto “better to be safe than sorry” but will the release of a HIV Self Test Kit help lower the number of people who are unaware they are infected, or just increase paranoia throughout the country? Scenes of Reason decodes HIV and asks whether people should have to pay to get checked…
For the first time, people will be able to purchase a HIV self test kit to use at home. It’s the first time you’ll be able to buy testing kits which have been legally certified for home use. Unlike other HIV tests they don’t need to be sent off to a lab to get results.
The tests will give a result in 15 minutes, although anybody testing positive must go to their doctor to be diagnosed again. It is supposed to be 99.7% accurate.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus attacks the body’s immune system, which is the system in your body which protects you from disease and illness. HIV is transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids. It can be caught by having sex without a condom, or by sharing infected needles. So, when it comes to sharing needles – just, no.
There is no cure to HIV but treatment exists enabling most people with the virus to live for a long time and remain healthy. However, it is extremely important to diagnose the virus sooner rather than later. HIV can lead to AIDS which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. At this stage the body cannot fight off infections. Sufferers are left extremely weak and in danger of death from illnesses such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and some cancers among others.
HIV does NOT just affect gay men. Anyone can catch HIV – male or female, young or old, gay, straight or bi-sexual. AIDS is a problem ALL across the world – not just Africa. Although AIDS is undoubtedly a problem in Africa, it is a worldwide issue.
You don’t need to be sexually promiscuous to contract HIV. Apart from unprotected sex there are other ways the virus can be transmitted – i.e. from contaminated needles, and in some cases from mother to child (however the good news is that with proper treatment you can significantly reduce the risk of this occurring). Now we’ve got that cleared up…
When infected by HIV most people experience flu-like symptoms for 2-6 weeks, after which most people experience no further symptoms for years. Most commonly people will complain of a sore throat, fever, a rash on the body and sometimes tiredness and swollen glands. Around 26,000 people are estimated to have the virus and be unaware of it, leading to the spread of the disease.
The HIV Self Test Kit is the product of BioSURE UK, a company which specialises in testing solutions. If you get infected with HIV your body will try to fight it by producing anti-bodies (special types of protein made by white blood cells to kill off invading viruses). HIV tests search for these anti-bodies in your blood. If it finds traces of these anti-bodies two purple lines appear, which indicates the user is HIV positive.
The HIV self test kit costs £29.95 and can be purchased from the BioSURE website and via the NHS.
Anything which assists diagnosis and lowers the risk of death is obviously a good thing. Although the accuracy is high, it is not 100% and the HIV self test kit may not pick up infections that have happened recently within last three months. BioSURE have also acknowledged this:
“the BioSURE HIV self-test may not detect recent HIV infection as it can take up to three months for the level of antibodies to become detectable,” – Brigette Bard, the founder of BioSure
Therefore if you think you have or are at risk of catching HIV you should go to your doctor and get checked as soon as possible. And if you use the HIV Self Test Kit and are confirmed positive – you must also go to your doctor to be re-tested. HIV charities have supported the launch of the product but have also re-enforced the need to improve access to support for those who have been diagnosed. HIV testing is provided by the National Health Service (NHS) free of charge to anyone. Some clinics also get your results back to you on the same day. Many major news outlets failed to mention this in their reports.
The home kit will hopefully increase the number of people getting checked out, and therefore lower the number of people dying from HIV related illnesses. All good then, unless you test positive and you have to go to the doctors anyway.
However – “Flu-like Symptoms” is a pretty broad description – are we going to see a load of “man-flu” sufferers panicking and running out to buy the kit? Does more need to be done to educate people about the virus?
And how do you feel about having to pay £30, when the NHS provides a free service? Is it more important that the NHS should receive enough funding to continue and improve its service?
All valid questions – but what do you think? Should people have to pay to get a HIV Self Test Kit? Let us know what you think.