In light of the AIDS Impact Conference in Cape Town, BioSURE positions itself as the easiest and only regulated HIV Self-Test on the South African market.
Dr Michael Evangeli from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, spoke at AIDS Impact, an international conference on HIV and AIDS, in Cape Town on 15th November. He presented several findings from a study into the pre- and post-test experiences of people who test HIV-positive from an HIV self-test.
The presentation at the meeting coincides with the launch of National HIV Testing Week, which Terrence Higgins Trust are marking by opening a pop-up self-test HIV shop in Hackney. Prince Harry is a passionate advocate for HIV testing and attended the opening of the pop-up shop and acted as shopkeeper, handing out BioSURE tests.
“So the instructions are idiot-proof, for people like myself?” asked Harry when presented with the BioSURE test. It’s well-recognised as the easiest self-test to perform.
Available legally in the UK since April 2014, HIV self-testing kits enable an HIV test to be performed by an individual without professional support, usually at home. Their availability may overcome some barriers to HIV testing such as inconvenience and concerns about confidentiality, helping to address the large numbers of people who are infected with HIV but don’t know they are.
“At BioSURE, we have used our innovative HIV Self-Test as a significant tool in normalising the conversation about HIV and testing generally. Self-testing allows people to take responsibility and ownership of their HIV status. We wouldn’t dream of telling people with whom, how or when they choose to have sex and yet, until now, they have been separated from knowing their own status by a healthcare professional. Self-testing is just another testing option for those it suits and BioSURE HIV Self-Test is simple, convenient and discreet,” explains Brigette Bard, BioSURE founder and CEO. “We passionately believe that self-testing can help to reduce HIV infection rates.”
Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, designed and delivered a pilot study between June and August 2016, providing free blood self-testing kits for target populations of men who have sex with men and Black African men and women. They used online advertising on Facebook, Twitter, dating apps and the THT website. The study whose findings are being presented in Cape Town, involved interviews with HIV-positive men who have sex with men.
Results from the interviews revealed that participants were positive about having tested at home and knowing their HIV status. They all reported previous negative experiences of testing in clinics in the past, for example, feeling judged. Participants experienced apprehension and anxiety about taking the test, even though all had been tested for HIV before.
All participants took the self-test alone, at home, although they would now give advice to others who thought they might be HIV-positive not to test alone. Participants reported attending a clinic for confirmatory testing within hours although some were frustrated that healthcare professionals did not know about self-testing.
Conclusions drawn from the evaluation at Royal Holloway show that there are real benefits to having the option to test at home but there’s a need for further education and training on self-testing for clinics and GPs.
Michael Evangeli commented:
“This study has highlighted a lack of adverse effects for participants in the study, as we found little evidence of delays in testing or difficulties in carrying out the test, or delays in accessing care. Overall it was empowering for participants to have the option to find out their HIV status in their own home for free. The results suggest that self-testing programmes should be increased to enable more people to know their HIV status before they become unwell.”
AIDS Impact is an international behavioural and psychosocial science conference that addresses issues related to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, focusing both globally and on specific communities and countries hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. AIDS Impact first convened in Amsterdam in 1991, and the 2017 Cape Town conference promotes pioneering work on understanding the dynamics of a changing epidemic. A key focus is consideration of new choices for HIV - for prevention, treatment, care and strategic planning.
“South Africa has continued to make small incremental changes to our HIV testing statistics year on year. However, if we are really going to address the testing gap that exists, and ultimately reach the first 90 of the UNAIDS goals, then we will require changes to our mind sets and embrace the opportunities that innovations such as HIV Self-Testing present,” reports Mohammed Mojam, Senior Programme Manager at WITS RHI.
BioSure launched their South African online e-commerce platform in April 2017 and with limited marketing has seen an encouraging uptake. “For me, this makes sense. People need a product like this,” confirms Pamela Bess, PlayYourPart Ambassador. “While there might be mixed views from professionals about a person receiving their own result, there are some people it works for to not have to go to a clinic – they don’t want to be seen, have the time, or would rather do it themselves and know immediately. And it’s cheaper than booking to see a GP or taking a day off work. So we need to encourage this type of proactive, self-testing and self-empowerment.”
BioSURE is the easiest HIV Self-Test on the South African market and it is available in leading Dis-Chem pharmacies nationwide, or you can order it online from Takealot or www.hivselftest.co.za.
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