Ban lifted on take-home HIV testing kits

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Pharmacists can sell take-home HIV testing kits, according to Pharmacy Council of South Africa registrar and CEO Amos Masango. Health-e News reports that, according to Masango, a May 2015 decision by the council effectively quietly removed the ban on pharmacist sales of HIV self-testing kits. The decision comes almost one year after the council gazetted a draft plan to remove the ban.

The proposed lifting of the ban was warmly received, Masango is quoted in the report as saying. “Most pharmacists and the public felt that a pharmacist was better placed to deal with the sale of such tests given the sensitivity and the professionalism required in dealing with the condition,” said Masango.

“The council in October 2014 had decided not to publish the minimum standard for implementation until such time that a standard for selling of HIV tests kits had been designed,” he added. “In May 2015, the council finally resolved that the minimum standards – which effectively removed the ban for pharmacists to sell the HIV test kits that were approved in October 2014 – were sufficient and that there was no requirement to formulate further standards for selling HIV test kits. Pharmacists are in a position to sell these kits at this point in time,” said Masango, who added the council would now look to release a set of minimum standards to assure the quality of HIV self-tests.

The Southern African HIV Clinicians Society has previously voiced its support for home testing although president Francesca Conradie has said that guaranteeing test quality will be important. “There are many people who want to test and who do not want to interface with the healthcare system. We believe the more people testing, the better,” Conradie said. “Let’s get as many people to test as possible.”

The report says in 2010, the South African Medical Association issued a statement warning that self-testing in the absence of trained counsellors could be risky for newly diagnosed people living with HIV. “Whilst rapid testing may assist in facilitating the diagnosis of HIV infection…tests have important implications for the individual, especially in respect of HIV counselling,” said the association in the statement. “There is also the danger of people committing suicide after being informed of their HIV-positive status, or even following misinterpretation of the results of the home test kit.W

Lehlohonolo Adams Clinic counsellor Lydia Lesala said in the report that she shares the association’s previously state concerns. “Anything can happen if you test yourself,” said the counsellor. “You might accuse people wrongly of infecting you and some people can even commit suicide”. Lesala also had concerns about whether people who tested HIV positive at home would report to their local clinics for crucial tests needed to determine whether they should start HIV treatment.

Pharmacist Rachel Strydom said pharmacists might need to provide pre-test counselling when they sell the take home tests. HIV self-tests are already available in some pharmacies for about R35.

Health-e News material

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