Home HIV testing kits are now available at a pharmacy near you. The test claims to be easy to use and accurate. The question is: is it a good idea? Clinics offer counselling and education about the disease, but the convenience of the home testing kit means that you can take it more frequently. With the stigma of HIV still rampant around South Africa Live went to find out what the arguments for and against home testing are.
Jackie Lampard, 23
Home HIV tests could result in misdiagnosis, infection or giving oneself HIV (by not following proper sterilisation). With no counselling and a poor understanding of how to use and read the test it leaves one feeling very alone and more prone to self-harm like suicide for example. In cases where HIV tests are free and counselling is provided to those who are HIV positive it is better to go that route as I imagine home testing kits would not be free. In this case one’s options would be fully explained as well as the process of receiving antiretrovirals; a medical professional is always better than the Internet.
Kirsten Harris, 23
I don’t think that HIV home testing kits should be used.
I don’t know where one would get them from, but if it’s at a pharmacy, I don’t think people would just go and ask for one; there is still too much stigma surrounding the disease. Secondly, if you are testing at home, there isn’t that emotional support/counselling for those who are positive. Even if you think that you are positive, I don’t think anything can prepare you for having a test confirm that you are positive, so that ‘counselling’ is vital.
Jessica Stuart-Clark, 23
The HIV home test claims to be an “accurate, anonymous and private” means of testing for HIV. This will help people who are particularly concerned about keeping their status private due to the fear of being stigmatised. Just as one is able to take a home pregnancy test and thus make a an informed choice based on the outcome, the HIV home testing kit similarly allows individuals the autonomy to test themselves and take the necessary decisions regarding the outcome, without having to endure the less desirable aspects of testing at a clinic or hospital. Furthermore, for those without access to health care, the home tests can be easily acquired over the Internet, phone or ordered from a chemist. Having said so, consequentially, there is a problem when people aren’t properly educated about the disease. It is also important that the test is purchased from legal and regulated vendors.
Christine Crombie, 22
The home-kit allows people to take the test in the privacy of their own homes and they can surround themselves with family and friends for support. They are not surrounded by doctors and strangers who they may feel are judging them; they can feel comfortable and less stressed at home. We live in a society that still has a lot of stigma around HIV and this is one way to avoid any public humiliation. Also, if people can test themselves, more people will be aware of their status and it will allow them to take the necessary steps to prevent others from getting it. I do believe that there should be a toll-free helpline number on the packaging that people who require emotional support and information can call. The use of HIV testing at home could help prevent the spread of HIV among couples as they would be able to test each other on a more regular basis. HIV testing at home will provide a greater opportunity to reach outlying communities and empower the marginalised to seek the appropriate treatment, prevention and care.