Sale of HIV home test kits slammed by NZAF

New Zealand – from www.gaynz.com – A sex toys and erotica wholesaler which has begun distributing a home HIV test kit is irresponsible and is preying on people who may be vulnerable, worried and at risk, according to the NZ AIDS Foundation.

But Auckland-based Turkana Trading, which has started marketing the EZ-Trust brand rapid HIV test kit to adult shops throughout the country, says the kit’s retail availability will increase the number of people who take an HIV test and allow those who have already tested to test more frequently in future. Spokesperson Mike Colwill says similar kits are already available throughout the country and online and their increased availability will save lives. The kit, which is likely to retail for around $40, is described to prospective retailers as “an ideal counter display and web based product.”

The AIDS Foundation, which conducts similar rapid HIV tests free of charge throughout the country, says people taking the test unsupported by counselors or other professional assistance could fall victim to “depression, self harm, and may even cause harm to others whom they think may have infected them.” It is also concerned if careless users of the kit see it as a pre-intercourse test with a negative result giving the green light to unprotected sex. “The only way to know that you and your partner are protected against HIV transmission is to use a condom and lube for anal sex,” says Eamonn Smythe, NZAF Director Positive Health Services.

Smythe also fears home users may not fully understand complexities surrounding determining HIV positive or negative status. “This test is an antibody test,” he says. “An [infected] person’s body first needs to develop the antibodies that produce a positive result. This takes the human body time to develop and will be identifiable in 80% of people in 3 months,” Negative results during this period are common, according to Smythe.

The EZ-Trust test kit is packaged with the manufacturer’s instructions and cautions, and Turkana is providing a supplementary information sheet which advises users that “by doing this test at home you are electing to test without associated counseling or advice… if you are in any doubt as to testing yourself then you should instead seek medical assistance with your test.” It lists several links to internet information sites such as Wikipedia and gives the phone numbers for the NZAF AIDS Hotline and Lifeline. Turkana will not be providing training to retail counter staff.

It is as yet unknown how readily available the kits are, Turkana says it will not release any sales or distribution information. But in a stinging rebuke to Turkana and any retailers or venues considering stocking the test kit Smythe says “sex on site venues are appropriate places to have safe sex and adult shops are an appropriate place to purchase vibrators, butt plugs, nipple clamps and other toys for sex. Sex on site venues and adult shops are not appropriate places to purchase medical testing kits for HIV, or indeed any STI.” “We strongly recommend that they do not stock these testing kits,” he adds.

GayNZ.com understands that the NZAF several days ago voiced its concerns to Turkana but as of midday yesterday the company was selling the kits. The Foundation is also angry that its name was used in promotional material issued during the week by Turkana and says it will require “any association between the NZAF and this product to be discontinued.”

Turkana says it is poised to introduce home test kits for a number of other sexually transmitted infections.

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