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HIV self-test kits now on sale without prescription
HOME test kits for HIV are now available over the counter from today in high-street pharmacies without prescription in a bid to help those who may be at risk get a definite answer.
Embarrassment and fear are among the reasons that an estimated 18% of HIV sufferers do not know they are infected, but early diagnosis is crucial to enable the condition to be medicated successfully.
Nowadays, HIV can be kept at bay with medicines which have few, if any, side-effects, meaning sufferers can lead a normal, healthy life and live as long as anyone who is not infected.
Drugs are even available to prevent HIV spreading to sexual partners.
The down side to the over-the-counter test is that it is expensive – costing around €30 – but it is said to be as near to 100% reliable as can ever be guaranteed, and whether or not the result is positive, it will still lead to peace of mind either through the person knowing they are not infected, or by having concrete evidence of the condition that can allow them to be treated immediately.
The test involves giving a saliva or blood sample – a finger-prick rather than a full blood test – and the results come through in 20 minutes.
According to the ministry of health, it takes between two and eight weeks for a person to test positive for HIV after the virus has entered the system.
The ministry warns that the test only shows whether the user is HIV-positive or negative, and does not give results for any other sexually-transmitted diseases.
Latest figures show that between 140,000 and 145,000 people live with HIV, but nearly one in five do not know they have it.
Delays in diagnosis complicate treatment, since the virus may be resistant to medication and more powerful drugs in higher quantities may be needed, or ongoing 'experimentation' until medicines the patient responds to can be found.
Changes in health practice now mean that the HIV self-test kit can be advertised through mainstream channels to raise awareness of it and attempt to remove the stigma associated with the condition.
Photograph by the Red Cross
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