Are You More Likely to Check for HIV with a DIY Testing Kit?

VIHIf you’re worried that your wellbeing may be affected by HIV, would you rather go into a clinic to get tested, or do it yourself in the privacy of your own home? If you picked the latter option, you’re not alone. According to a recent article published in the online open access science journal PLoS Medicine, researchers found that the majority of people given a choice between discovering their HIV status at a clinic or through a HIV home test would choose the HIV home test.

This finding is significant because anonymous and convenient at-home HIV testing could make you and your partners more motivated to learn whether you or they have HIV or not, and if you do, you’re more likely to seek help and reduce the likelihood of spreading the infection to others. According to HIV/AIDS wellness experts, over half of those living with HIV across the world do not know their HIV status.

Lead author Nitika Pant Pai, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University, noted that social factors such as embarrassment, shame, lack of confidentiality and the fear that others will find out their HIV status plays a huge role in stopping you from getting tested. She pointed out that sexual health experts say the reason AIDS is a silent killer has its roots in this stigma.

According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, ‘Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action. It is a main reason why too many people are afraid to see a doctor to determine whether they have the disease, or to seek treatment if so. It helps make AIDS the silent killer, because people fear the social disgrace of speaking about it, or taking easily available precautions. Stigma is a chief reason why the AIDS epidemic continues to devastate societies around the world.’

For the study, the researchers performed a systematic review of published research on the effectiveness of either supervised or unsupervised self-testing for HIV. At-home kits can involve the use of minimally invasive oral tests kits in which you swab the inside of your mouth, which people preferred to blood-based to self-testing. The results also showed that people preferred self-testing to facility-based testing in general, and, in one study, 96% of participants who self-tested positive sought post-testing counseling.

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