Almost 10,000 home HIV tests have been distributed across Scotland during the coronavirus pandemic – with just 16 people using them recording a positive test for the disease.
The figures were revealed by the charity HIV Scotland which launched self-testing kits in April 2020.
Since then a total of 9,865 such kits have now been delivered to homes across the country – with the Scottish Government having provided £120,000 to make the devices freely available.
The pandemic has also meant people are more accustomed to carrying out medical tests at home, as the public are encouraged to take regular lateral flow tests for Covid.
The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, urged people to take advantage of the at-home HIV tests, saying the more people who are aware of their status, the more transmission of the virus can be prevented.
Ms Sturgeon, speaking on World Aids Day, said it was an “an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to eliminating HIV transmission in Scotland by 2030”.
The First Minister stressed “significant progress” had already been made in the treatment and prevention of HIV, saying: “In October, Scotland became the first country in the UK to authorise an injection to manage HIV, giving those with the condition a choice about the treatment that’s right for them.”
She continued: “However, the more people who find out their HIV status and go onto treatment, the more HIV transmission can be prevented.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has provided £120,000 to make free home test kits available for anyone in Scotland.”
Meanwhile, HIV Scotland chief executive, Alastair Hudson, told how “times have changed dramatically” for those with the virus, adding that “Scotland has led the way in innovation”.
Mr Hudson, who is himself HIV positive, said: “We were the first country in the UK to offer a daily course of antiretroviral drugs, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) back in July 2017, which (can be) taken by HIV-negative people to protect themselves from infection.
“The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) recently licensed Cabotegravir (Vocabria), in combination with rilpivirine – the first ever long-acting injectable treatment for HIV, an alternative to the current daily pill-base regimen, reducing treatment from tablets 365 days a year to only six injections a year. This is another great tool in our armoury, in our fight against HIV.”
Speaking about his own health, he said: “I take one pill a day and have my blood tested twice a year. I am in rude health.
“We are a far cry from the stigma and injustice so beautifully portrayed in It’s A Sin which captured the scale of the loss we experienced in the 80s.”
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