October 22, 2015
Health providers agree that HIV home tests are an important tool that can help curb the spread of HIV, but raise concerns about their use in some settings.
The benefit of home HIV test kits, says Joshua O'Neal, the HIV testing services manager for San Francisco AIDS Foundation, is that they can extend the reach of HIV testing services. "We know there are people out there who may not seek out sexual health services if they have to do it publicly -- for fear of being stigmatized -- that could benefit from HIV testing in the privacy of their own homes."
Home testing offers people the ability to know their status regardless of the availability of services where they live. Health providers caution against using this new detection tool to test someone other than yourself, however, in response to suggestions that some might use HIV tests to screen partners before sex.
"Demanding an HIV test pretty much says that you wouldn't sleep with your partner if the test comes back positive. It doesn't seem empowering. If you are that unsure of your partners, you should consider PrEP or use condoms consistently," says Pierre-Cedric Crouch, NP, PhD, the nursing director at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation sexual health clinic Magnet.
Promoting the use of HIV home test kits to screen potential sex partners only increases the fear and distrust that surrounds sex and HIV, says Marc-André LeBlanc, an HIV advocate and public policy consultant. While he says that it's always better for people to have more HIV testing options, he raises the concern that home-testing a potential sexual partner may not be part of a respectful, mutually-agreed upon interaction.
"It has potential to be part of something that's coercive or that may lead to an unsafe situation," LeBlanc explains. "HIV testing should always be done voluntarily and with consent. When testing is done at home, you never know what kind of power dynamics are going on between the sex partners. Is one person being coerced to take the test? And if there's a positive result, what will the reaction of the other person be?"
This excerpt was cross-posted with the permission of BETAblog.org. Read the full article.
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