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Saturday 11 April 2015

NZAF warns against HIV home testing

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News, HIV
By Daily News staff - 12th July 2014

Although Australian health authorities have given HIV home-test kits the go-ahead, New Zealand's primary HIV awareness and prevention organisation remains opposed to them being used in this country.

Last week Australia's Health Minister, Peter Dutton, announced he is lifting restrictions on the kit's retail sale in a bid to increase early diagnosis of the virus.

Mr Dutton said manufacturers of the oral swab tests can now apply to Australia’s regulatory authority for approval to distribute them following what he terms their successful introduction overseas, including in the US. Dutton likened the HIV test kits to home pregnancy test kits.

The NZ AIDS Foundation fears the use of such kits in this country - where, unlike Australia and the USA, it has long been indicated that there is a strong condom culture - could lead to people dropping their guard regarding safe sex. It could also, the NZAF says, lead to people receiving traumatic positive test results without support or assistance in dealing with the consequences.

"Testing is an important component of New Zealand's response to HIV, but it needs to be in the context of a culture of condom use and support for those who test," says Shaun Robinson, Executive Director of the NZAF.

"The dangers of home testing are that they encourage people to 'sero-sort' by testing then having unprotected sex, and that they can leave people facing the trauma of a positive test without professional back up."

Sero-sorting is the process whereby people divide themselves into two groups, those who have HIV and those who believe they do not have the debilitating virus. By having sex only within 'their' group those who adopt this behaviour generally choose not to use condoms.

Robinson says he also has concerns that the test kit results can be misinterpreted. "The NZAF has had instances where men have misread a test and then been very distressed."

He says the NZAF "has always been an innovator in HIV testing and we will continue to consider new options such as advocating for fast testing at GP and sexual health clinics as well as any role for home testing. However, testing must always be in the context of condom promotion or any benefits to the community will be lost."


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