In a recent piece on XTRA, author Kevin Hurren breaks down the facts on HIV self-testing kits and addresses how this recently approved form of testing can curb HIV transmission rates in Canada.
Dr. Sean Rourke, Neuropsychologist, Scientist and CANFAR Implementation Consultant, lent his perspective for the piece.
“Rourke’s mission to get at least one HIV self-test on the market began five years ago, when he published a white paper on the issue and tried to get the federal government to sign on, with little success. “There was no traction, it was just striking to me. Where was the leadership?”
Getting HIV self-testing kits approved in Canada has been a long-fought battle, with Canada being the last country among G7 nations to finally approve this testing method in November 2020. The fight to end the HIV epidemic in Canada by 2025 (part of the CANFAR 2025 campaign goal) does not end with getting HIV self-testing approved — the next hurdle is getting these tests into the hands of Canadians.
There are two major obstacles to overcome: cost and design/functionality of the tests.
Considering it can be difficult for susceptible populations to afford the test kits, the Government of Canada must subsidize these tests (as other countries have done) to maximally reap its benefits.
“Governments will say we don’t have money to pay for it. Well, find a way. We have undiagnosed Canadians that will die if they don’t get treatment. It’s your job to actually help with this.”
The second obstacle, design and functionality of the HIV self-testing kits, is another example of an instance where government intervention is required. A superior test is available (one that requires a cheek swap instead of a finger prick) but it is not available for sale in Canada. Experts say this type of test is less intimidating and by extension, has the potential to be used by a greater amount of people, yet it is unavailable.
“HIV is not over yet, the numbers are not going down. We have the tools, it’s about doing the right things. We can change this.”