HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust has welcomed the Department of Health’s announcement that the sale of HIV self-testing kits is to be made legal in the UK.

Policy Director Lisa Power said: “We warmly welcome this decision, which Terrence Higgins Trust has long campaigned for. People deserve to have a choice about how and where they test for HIV and proper regulation will make self-testing a safe and supported option for many more people across the country. The public response to our highly successful home sampling scheme shows that many people who have never tested before, or who have been putting off a visit to a clinic, are willing to test at home.

“Currently, most HIV transmission in the UK is driven by the 25,000 people who have HIV but have not yet been diagnosed. Anything that encourages these people to test, take control of their health and get treatment is a welcome advance.”

Since 1992, the sale of self-testing kits for HIV has been illegal in the UK. Kits can currently be purchased over the internet, but they are unregulated, often of very poor quality and lack important information on HIV transmission and where to get support.

In 2010, Terrence Higgins Trust surveyed 657 people via newsletters, social media, and other online media. Of the 490 respondents that had not tested HIV-positive, 63% said they would consider using HIV self-testing kits if they were legalised and 51% thought legalisation would make them test more often. Among gay men, one of the groups most at risk of HIV in the UK, 60% thought legalisation would make them test more often.

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In January 2013, Terrence Higgins Trust and Public Health England co-launched their first HIV home sampling scheme, where people in groups at an increased risk of infection could request a free HIV test by post. Since launch, the scheme has provided almost 9,000 home sampling kits to gay men and Africans in England, receiving over 1,400 requests in the first month alone.

For more information on HIV testing options, including Terrence Higgins Trust’s community testing clinics and home sampling service, please visit www.tht.org.uk.