Home testing ? Something that needs discussion we think;
Much has been featured in the news lately about the prospect of legalised home testing for HIV. Some charities have heralded this as a step forward, and a good thing. However we beg to differ.
It seems unclear why this is considered an improvement on home sampling (where a kit is used by an individual at home, sample sent to a lab and then the result is relayed by a clinic or health provider) This method provides a direct link to care and support in the event of a reactive (possibly positive) test result.
With home testing the individual will receive their result instantly there and then, perhaps on their own, or perhaps worse still with people who are not supportive.
Imagine yourself in that scenareo for a moment. Your result has shown you are likely to be positive, what next? Denial? Ignore the result, dont get it confirmed by a full test at a clinic as you should, carry on as normal, possibly with less care, now you know you are possibly positive why would you take care?
Or would you sink into depression? abandon everything? or tell everyone before it is even confirmed? then what? those you thought of as friends are not as supportive as you would have hoped? People have been hounded out of homes, schools, work, in the past for revealing their status… what effect on family and friends? What about possible criminal charges for transmission?
Think you life is over? reach for the vodka and painkillers? Dramatic? maybe, but has happened on a number of occasions, too many in fact. In the news this week a story surfaced about an Australian nurse who on receiving a diagnosis said; “I tried to attempt suicide on a number of occasions because I couldn’t live with the fact that I could have infected someone I loved,”
With the stigma that still surrounds HIV home testing is not a good idea, there are plenty of ways to be tested, not all involve needles or a trip to a hospital. In fact some services are in very pleasant confidential surroundings, not the, perhaps percieved, colder clinical settings.
Those who defend the idea say that there will be information included in the kits to signpost people to help and support.. really, at 2am when you finally plucked up the courage to take the test are you really going to think, oh its ok i can call someone? Some people, usually the most vulnerable, need help deciding to test, need support during, and directly afterwards.
What they don’t need is a test result staring them in the face with noone present to pick up the pieces. There needs to be more thought and more consultation, and definitely more work eradicating stigma and prejudice before this can become a suitable alternative to current testing options.
Those agencies supporting this move might be want to direct their energy towards continuing with home sampling and other testing methods, awareness work and stigma reduction. Unfortunately it appears there may be some financial incentives at work here too, we should also ask who is set to gain the most from such an initiative, and then we may realise why it is being pushed so hard from certain quarters.
A quick survey of people accessing services this week has revealed that not one thought this a good idea, most suggesting they would not have used it, some saying it would have discouraged them from testing at all. Another asked if eventually the idea would be when requesting a test anywhere they would be given a kit, and then told to go home to do it? Most thought that people would only use it when “Dutch Courage” was evident, then who would govern whether it was carried out appropriately, or provide support, or perhaps stop self harm if a reactive result was the outcome.
And what if, after all that, the result was a false result? The home testing kits have, apparently, a 1 in 12 false negative and 1 in 5000 false positive rate, not really acceptable when other methods are far more accurate, certainly without the false negative rate publicised in the Guardian this week . It’s too much far too soon, in an ideal world, workable, but we live in a far from perfect society…
Please do write to the Minister Anne Soubry if you share our concerns, we feel this needs more scrutiny, if not there is a very real risk people will be harmed as a result.