At-home HIV testing kits

October 2012

The AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) believes that universal access to free, voluntary HIV testing should be available to all, and that HIV testing should be accompanied with professional, in-person pre (before) and post (after) test counselling. While ACT encourages those at risk for HIV infection to access HIV testing in order to find out about their HIV status, we believe that the existing free services available through anonymous HIV testing clinics in Ontario are the best method to do so. Unlike costly at-home test kits (which are not licensed for use in Canada), Ontario’s HIV testing clinic staff are able to provide one-on-one, in person pre and post test counselling, sexual health information, links to medical care and referrals to community supports for those who test HIV-positive. Furthermore, with the expansion of ‘rapid’, point-of-care HIV testing in Ontario, those who want to receive their HIV test results are able to do so within minutes.

Background:

The United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test. This self administered testing kit is used to detect the presence of antibodies found in the Human Immunodeficiency Virus type one (HIV-1) and type two (HIV-2). It is important to note that Health Canada has not authorized HIV kits for home use in Canada.1 ACT is concerned that at-home testing does not allow for appropriate pre test counselling, post test counselling, education about HIV transmission, nor does it provide immediate support and referrals for those who test HIV-positive. Not having those resources available in person, at the time of receiving a test result, can cause emotional and psychological distress and could result in those who test positive for HIV not being linked to proper care and support.

ACT is also concerned about the price of at-home test kits, which sell for approximately $30.00 (USD) in the United States. The cost limits access to those with limited financial resources, often those who are most vulnerable to HIV. ACT recognizes that stigma related to HIV may make it difficult for some people to seek testing services. ACT believes the expansion of anonymous HIV testing sites that provide accessible and culturally appropriate supports and referrals is the best way to encourage people to seek HIV testing regularly, as well as providing them with a clear understanding of what an HIV test is and what the results
mean. This allows individuals to achieve self-determination, informed decision-making, independence and control of their overall health and well-being.

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1 http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/advisories-avis/_2012/2012_137-eng.php