Self-testing HIV kits are now available in local pharmacies, Allied Rainbow Communities has announced.
The Malta Independent on Sunday had initially reported that the government, under Health Minister Chris Fearne, was in the procurement process of bringing HIV rapid testing kits to the GU clinic in Mater Dei Hospital, for free. The Ministry had also revealed when speaking to this newsroom that self-test HIV home kits will also be available in pharmacies, which has now been made a reality.
The self-test kits allow a person to be able to test for the disease at the comfort of their own home, without any prying eyes. It is a straightforward process that requires a small drop of blood, takes 15 minutes to get the results, and is 99.8 per cent accurate. The kit is known as the ‘Autotest VIH’.
HIV is a potentially life-threatening condition that works by damaging a person’s immune system, as it interferes with the body’s ability to fight the organisms that cause disease. It is primarily a sexually transmitted disease however drug users who share needles are also at risk. The body’s ability to fight disease is possible through what are known as ‘antibodies’, explaining why a blood test over a saliva swam is generally preferable.
It must be said that HIV has an incubation period, meaning that some time must pass between contracting HIV, and getting a positive read on a test.
The kits have been approved both by Malta and the EU.
In the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, EU member states resolved to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. To achieve this it has set up a set of goals to be met by 2020:
“By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.
“By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.
“By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.”
Health Minister Chris Fearne had said that while the island is excelling in the second and third category, only 75 per cent of those with HIV are aware of their status.
“Self-testing kits will have a Mater Dei helpline number to phone in case of difficulty. The introduction of rapid testing will push up the figure of patients who are aware of their HIV status towards the targeted 90%,” the Minister had said to this newsroom.
The list of pharmacies can be found: https://www.gaymalta.com/hiv-selftest
By Helena Grech