An over-the-counter HIV test could soon be available in Australian pharmacies, allowing people to get a result within 15 minutes in the privacy of their homes.
Fairfax Media reported that Australian company Atomo Diagnostics has created a finger-prick home HIV test with an accuracy rate of 99.8% that it wants to sell in pharmacies, clinics and and support services for an estimated $15-$20.
The company’s CEO John Kelly said a local trial of the product will begin in the next few months in order to get the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s approval to sell the test.
Manufacturers have been able to submit self-testing kits for Australian regulatory approval since 2014, but Atomo would be the first company to do so. Self-testing kits are approved for sale in the United States, United Kingdom and France.
The company attended the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) in Durban, South Africa last weekend, and the conference also heard results of a trial that showed easy access to self-testing kits can double the frequency with which Australian men who have sex with men get tested for HIV.
Prince Harry (pictured) recently took a HIV test and streamed it live on Facebook to raise awareness, and UK HIV advocates credit the Prince’s video with a considerable boost in Brits ordering HIV self-test kits.
Harry appeared at the conference with Sir Elton John (both pictured) to call for more testing.
“It’s time for us to step up to make sure no young person feels any shame in asking for an HIV test,” he said.
“It’s time for us to step up and acknowledge that stigma and discrimination still act as the greatest barrier to us defeating this disease once and for all.”
Meanwhile, University of New South Wales researcher Iryna Zablotska told the conference about Australia’s plan to “virtually eliminate” HIV by 2020 with the help of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication, also known by its brand name Truvada.
In May, the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved PrEP for use as a HIV prevention tool, but until it’s listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme it remains unaffordable for many men. Trials of the medication are underway in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
“There are four essential things that had to happen in order for a PrEP program like this to happen,” Ms Zablotska told the conference.
“We had a Ministry of Health that was actively committed to making PrEP happen; a positive consensus for PrEP among medical professionals; a supportive network of sexual health clinics and gay-friendly GPs; and a proactive LGBT health community that devised innovative awareness and social media campaigns.”