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UK law to permit sale of home HIV testing kits

The UK Government is to legislate to allow the sale of 'home-testing kits' for HIV infection in the UK, despite the fact that no such device exists in the UK market at present, reports the BBC.

The Government has passed a law that will in future allow UK citizens to buy a home-testing kit to diagnose HIV infection, without the need to visit a doctor's surgery, hospital or sexual health clinic.

The law has been passed despite the fact that no such device exists in the UK market, and none has received approval by European regulators either.

Nevertheless, it is understood that such testing devices are almost ready to bring to market, and could now be introduced into the UK legally as early as 2015. The home test kits are already available in the US.

It is thought there are currently 25,000 people in the UK living with HIV without being aware they have contracted the infection. Many may suspect they have the disease but are scared to visit a clinic to receive a positive diagnosis, often due to the stigma that HIV infection still carries.

It is hoped that introducing a home-testing kit will encourage more people to test themselves, and to seek help if they find they are HIV positive.

HIV is no longer the crippling diagnosis it once was, with advances in HIV medication now meaning that most sufferers are able to take just a single tablet each day, and stand a good chance of having a normal life expectancy; dying with HIV rather than because of it.

The Terrence Higgins Trust HIV charity recently ran a pilot allowing individuals to test themselves at home and post a sample to receive a negative result by phone or text. They found that demand for the service almost outstripped supply.

Dr Michael Brady is the medical director at the Terrence Higgins Trust.

"[Home testing] is not for everyone, which is why it is important to have a range of options available," he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: "The stigma surrounding HIV may mean that some people are afraid or reluctant to go to a clinic to be tested. The change in the law will mean self-test kits are now legal to buy, making the test process more convenient and discreet."