Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, has announced his intention to lift the restrictions on HIV self-testing in Northern Ireland.
Currently anyone wishing to test for HIV has to go to a health professional at a GP surgery, sexual health clinic or Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) clinic. Self-testing involves an individual taking a sample, performing the test and interpreting the results without the involvement of a health professional. A reactive (positive) result must be confirmed with another test taken by a health professional in a clinical setting. This is standard practice for all reactive HIV tests to confirm the result and ensure linkage into care and support.
Speaking on World AIDS Day, Mr Hamilton said: “The change in the law will allow HIV self-testing kits to be sold to the public in Northern Ireland. Some people are reluctant to get tested for a number of reasons, including stigma and a fear of being judged, so self-testing will have an important role in reaching those who are not using existing services.”
Currently around 94 new cases of HIV are diagnosed each year in Northern Ireland, and over 800 people receive HIV-related treatment and care.
The Minister continued: “Over the past few years we have seen more new HIV infections and by making testing and treatment more accessible, we can reduce the rates of undiagnosed HIV, reduce onward transmission and improve the health outcomes of people living with HIV.”
Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride added: “Self-testing provides an additional testing choice that complements current options. It is important for people to understand that anyone who gets a reactive result from a HIV self-test must contact a GP, sexual health or GUM clinic to get the result confirmed and to ensure they receive the appropriate treatment and support.”