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Could free self-diagnose tests reduce the number for undiagnosed HIV cases?

Whether we like it or not, some people face higher risk of contracting HIV. Scientists are trying to figure out a way to prevent this virus from spreading and they think that self-testing kits could be a solution. Now several science institutions from UK will attempt to find out whether providing free HIV self-tests to men, transgender men and transgender women who have sex with men could reduce the number of people who have undiagnosed HIV.

HIV tests like this cost £30 and are easy to use, but people still prefer not using them. Image credit: Wheeler Cowperthwaite via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

The problem is that going to a clinic is time consuming and, for some people, embarrassing. Self-testing could be a solution as a person could simply do it at home in his private space. These kits are simple to use – a person just has to take sample of his blood and quickly process it. They would allow people testing themselves more often, which would reduce cases of undiagnosed HIV. Or at least that’s what UCL, London School of Hygiene Tropical Medicine, and Public Health England seeks to find out in this new study.

Scientists estimate that currently around 13 % of people with HIV do not know they have it. And so they continue spreading it around and do not seek treatment themselves soon enough. In facts, rates of testing in England and Wales, where this research is taking place, are very low. Scientists say that some people cannot afford the time of getting tested or simply are embarrassed to talk to the doctor, which could be solved with these self-testing kits one can used at home. However, there is another issue that some people simply don’t want to know if they have the virus and so they would not test themselves either way.

Men, transgender men and transgender women who have sex with men were selected because they are thought to have the largest risk of contracting HIV. It is because condoms are not widely popular in these communities as unwanted pregnancy is not a possibility. However, it is not just that people don’t want to get tested or are shy to do it – scientists are bringing another issue out. Co-researcher Michelle Gabriel said: “If you are in a large urban area like London it is relatively easy to access a clinic and get tested, however in somewhere more remote it might involve two bus journeys, and there also may be concern about someone you know finding out that you are visiting the clinic”.

These self-testing kits are already available, so you may wonder why scientists would like to make them free. Now they cost around £30, which is not unaffordable. But providing these diagnostic tools for free may encourage people to actually use them and reduce the number of undiagnosed cases. At least that’s the theory, scientists still have to see if it would work.

 

Source: UCL

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