Despite the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) approving HIV self-testing kits in May 2015 and them being readily available over the counter in retail pharmacies, the National Department of Health (NDoH) still needs to issue guidelines for the test.

This is according to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was responding to a question in the National Council of Provinces on what facilities would be made available for immediate counselling for persons who make use of HIV/AIDS self-test kits.

HIV self-testing has been an on-going disputed topic among the South African healthcare community. Those against the self-testing kits have questioned the accuracy of the tests and argued that people who find out that they are HIV positive could react badly and cause self-harm. Meanwhile, those in favour of the self-testing kits pointed out its ease of use and the opportunities it provides to scale up HIV testing across the country.

“It is critical to highlight that these kits are to be used only for screening, and those who screen positive must go to a health facility to have the confirmatory test done,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa added that a diagnosis can only be made once the second test, analysed at a laboratory, is done and the result is positive.

According to Ramaphosa, the SAPC is currently finalising a standard operating procedure to ensure that pharmacies provide appropriate information for use of these kits.

“We encourage members of the public to use the services of the NDoH’s call centre should they have any questions about the use of the kits or interpretation of results. Government continues to provide counselling services at all public HIV testing sites. We urge all South Africans who are sexually active to test for HIV regularly,” concluded Ramaphosa.

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