Thursday, 30 October 2014

The HIV self-test kit: coming soon to a pharmacy (or sex shop) near you

WYCLIFFE MUGA writes: If you like movies at all, by now you will have seen – many times – the scene in romantic comedies in which a woman walks into her bathroom to perform a simple test which will tell her (with a high degree of accuracy) whether or not she is pregnant.

OK, for all I know it is not just romantic comedies which have this scene as a standard feature. Maybe it is equally common in science fiction; or thrillers; maybe even in zombie movies. I wouldn't know. I only watch comedies.

But here is the point to consider: is there any way to inject humour into a movie scene in which a man or woman goes into the bathroom to administer a self-test to find out if he or she was infected by HIV??

I don’t think so. It is possible to make fun of a woman getting pregnant when she did not want to. But HIV is far too serious for humour.

In any event, for all the decades that the AIDS scourge has ravaged the planet, it has been the established procedure to first submit to intensive counselling (usually by a certified counsellor) and only then have the HIV test done. It has been understood all along that you have to prepare people psychologically for the possibility of the tragic news that they are HIV+ve.

So, going by the Health Systems Trust of South Africa website, here is the good news: “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.”

And, on the same webpage, here is the bad news: “AIDS counsellors are concerned that DIY tests bypass the counselling necessary to prepare for an HIV diagnosis…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.”

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