Ban on HIV self-testing to be lifted

Date published: 01 December 2015

Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, has announced his intention to lift the restrictions on HIV self-testing in Northern Ireland.

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Currently anyone wishing to test for HIV has to go to a health professional at a GP surgery, sexual health clinic or Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) clinic. Self-testing involves an individual taking a sample, performing the test and interpreting the results without the involvement of a health professional. A reactive (positive) result must be confirmed with another test taken by a health professional in a clinical setting. This is standard practice for all reactive HIV tests to confirm the result and ensure linkage into care and support.

Speaking on World AIDS Day, Mr Hamilton said: “The change in the law will allow HIV self-testing kits to be sold to the public in Northern Ireland. Some people are reluctant to get tested for a number of reasons, including stigma and a fear of being judged, so self-testing will have an important role in reaching those who are not using existing services.”

Currently around 94 new cases of HIV are diagnosed each year in Northern Ireland, and over 800 people receive HIV-related treatment and care.

The Minister continued: “Over the past few years we have seen more new HIV infections and by making testing and treatment more accessible, we can reduce the rates of undiagnosed HIV, reduce onward transmission and improve the health outcomes of people living with HIV."

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride added: “Self-testing provides an additional testing choice that complements current options. It is important for people to understand that anyone who gets a reactive result from a HIV self-test must contact a GP, sexual health or GUM clinic to get the result confirmed and to ensure they receive the appropriate treatment and support.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. The sale of HIV self-testing kits was legalised across GB in April 2014, before an approved kit was available on the UK market.
  2. The BioSure HIV self-test is the only instant result self-test kit that has been CE-approved for sale in the UK and is available only by online purchase (£29.95).
  3. Every HIV self-test kit must clearly state that it is a self-testing kit and have the CE mark for use as a self-test which shows it has gone through specific regulatory requirements.
  4. Respondents to a consultation broadly welcomed the proposal to remove the ban in Northern Ireland.
  5. Regulations will be required to revoke the HIV Testing Kits and Services Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1992. This will also ensure Northern Ireland complies with its obligations in relation to the free movement of goods within the EU.
  6. In 2014, the latest figures available, there were 94 new diagnoses of HIV made in Northern Ireland (there were 95 new diagnoses in 2013 and the same number of diagnoses in 2012). 809 people received HIV-related care on Northern Ireland during 2014.
  7. Further information on HIV/AIDS can be found at NI Direct.
  8. The Regional Centre for HIV care and management based at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust provides a range of services and support to people from throughout Northern Ireland.
  9. Positive Life is a charity which supports and promotes positive living for people with and affected by HIV in Northern Ireland. It operates a free confidential helpline: 0800 137 437.
  10. Media enquiries about this press release to DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0567. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

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