Home-testing kits for HIV have reached the shelves of pharmacies, despite concerns on their accuracy and the wisdom of testing oneself for the virus that causes AIDS.
For just R70 and five minutes, the do-it-yourself test promises quick, easy and 99% accurate results to one of the most serious questions facing South Africans.
‘We believe we are providing a community service that will protect people from HIV, said Annette Louw, a sales representative for Alton Health International. Before a couple sleep together, they can quickly cheek they are both safe, she said. You don’t have to go to a doctor or wait around – and the response we’ve had shows this is what people want.
About 3,7 million South Africans are thought to be HIV positive, but because it takes years before they become ill only a fraction of these know they are infected.
Louw said the company had received orders for about 4 000 kits a week since launching a national advertising campaign in August. The kit is available by mail order, in pharmacies and some sex shops. She repeated claims on the packaging and advert that the Alton Home AIDS Test has been tested and approved by the National Institute of Virology (NIV) – a claim disputed by NIV director Barry Schoub. That is very mischievous advertising and a manipulation of the truth, he said. We do not support this product and we do not believe it is suitable for home use.
AIDS counsellors are concerned that DIY tests bypass the counselling necessary to prepare for an HIV diagnosis. A slip inserted into the kits provides phone numbers for counselling centres in the Western Cape (at least one of which is incorrect) as well as a cell number for pharmacist John Ireland. They didn’t ask me and I’m worried that by putting my name there it looks like I’m endorsing the product, said Ireland. Deputy AIDS director Celicia Serenata said the Health Department did not encourage the use of home AIDS tests but there was no legislation to regulate their sale.
(Source: The Star)