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HIV home testing kits to be retailed without prescription
HOME test kits for HIV can now be bought over the counter from high-street pharmacies in Spain thanks to a new Bill of Law, or Royal Decree, passed in Parliament this week.
Advertising self-test HIV kits to the public in general is now permitted, helping to remove the unnecessary taboo surrounding the condition.
Pharmacies wishing to sell the test kits will need to complete forms for the Spanish Agency of Medication and Healthcare Products (AEMPS) and prepare the box labels, prospectus and instructions in Spanish – a process which, all told, takes around two months.
The welcome move means anyone who suspects they may be at risk of having contracted the immune-deficiency virus can find out even more discreetly, saving the possible embarrassment that leads many worried patients to avoid the issue and not mention it to their doctor.
It is already possible in most district hospitals to request a confidential HIV test, which just involves a saliva sample and gives almost-instant results, often without even needing an appointment, but HIV experts estimate that as many as 30% of sufferers do not know they have the condition – partly due to shame at the idea of telling anyone of their suspicions.
At the opposite end of the scale, charities and internal medicine specialists believe the incidence of HIV in western society is rising as the general public is losing its fear of the condition now it is no longer a death sentence but, if caught in time, merely a chronic illness.
Late diagnosis is life-threatening, but those caught early can nearly always lead a normal life with few or no symptoms, live as long as an otherwise healthy person, and only need to take medication for the rest of their days – sometimes no more than one pill a day.
“It is completely necessary to improve access to testing for HIV, including self-test kits, says health minister Dolors Montserrat.
Self-test kits have not been available on the European market until very recently, although they are now already available in the UK and France with the CE kitemark showing they meet European Union regulations.
Several companies in Spain have already expressed an interest in retailing them, according to Sra Montserrat.
They can only be sold by pharmacies, but as they do not need a prescription, will even be able to be purchased online, increasing anonymity and reducing patients' embarrassment still further.
Photograph by the Red Cross
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