Federal Minister of Health wants to make the HIV self-test available for sale
Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn wants to make the much-discussed HIV self-test available for sale by law. With the self-test, everyone at home can independently check whether there is an infection with the AIDS pathogen. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is expecting around 12,600 people infected with HIV who do not know about their illness and who can therefore pass it on to others unsuspectingly. The law should be decided by autumn 2018.
"The HIV self-test is a milestone in the fight against AIDS," Minister Jens Spahn told the Funke media group. The test could also reach those who would otherwise not be able to be tested. If the law is passed, the self-test is freely available to everyone in pharmacies. The Federal Ministry of Health hopes that the test will achieve two goals. On the one hand, HIV-infected people should learn about their illness at an early stage and therefore not reach AIDS. On the other hand, the risk of infection by ignorant infected people is to be reduced.
HIV and AIDS in Germany
HIV and AIDS are sexual diseases. As reported by the Society for Virology (GfV), around 85,000 people were living with HIV at the end of 2016. The RKI estimates that around 12,600 people are affected who do not know about their infection. Early detection of viruses is beneficial for two reasons. Starting treatment early can help people living with HIV to live a largely normal life and never reach the end stage of AIDS. Furthermore, the risk of transmission can be reduced if infected people know about their illness.
Many find out about their illness too late
Around 25 percent of new HIV diagnoses are only made when those affected have already reached AIDS status. The HIV self-test for everyone should particularly include people who, despite extensive test offers, cannot currently be reached.
Austria is leading the way
Austria is already one step ahead in this regard. The self-test can now be bought in pharmacies there. The test can make initial statements about two weeks after a potential HIV infection. Similar to a blood sugar test in diabetes, the user has to prick his finger and apply the escaping blood to a stick. The result is shown in the form of lines. Two lines indicate HIV infection.
Concerns about the test
The GfV points out that there is an increased scope for interpretation of the self-test results. The user must be informed that a negative test result is not reliable, especially with fresh infections. A positive result does not necessarily mean that you are infected with HIV. To make matters worse, HIV infection is a severe blow to those affected. With a self-test at home alone, the testers are initially on their own and cannot benefit from the psychological care that a doctor could provide.
Other countries such as Austria, Great Britain and France have already taken this step. Despite initial skepticism, Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe also welcomes the efforts to release it. For example, board member Sylvia Urban is of the opinion that the self-test will help more people to learn about their HIV infection as early as possible and to be able to receive therapy. (vb)