The United Kingdom government has selected the city of Sheffield to participate in a three-month pilot program aimed at increasing HIV detection rates by offering home-based test kits, the Sheffield Star reports.
The initiative, which will target men who have sex with men, will allow people to obtain the test kits through Web sites or community outreach centers. To take the HIV test, individuals must take a mouth swab and send it to a laboratory for testing. The lab then confidentially notifies the individual of the test results with a call or text message, Steve Slack, director of Sheffield's Centre for HIV and Sexual Health, said. The city aims to launch the program in June. According to the Star, Sheffield is the only city in the northern part of the country to be included in the pilot program.
Nearly one-third of HIV-positive U.K. residents are unaware of their status and therefore not accessing early treatment, the Star reports. Slack said the pilot program will be "an unrivalled way to engage with hard-to-reach communities to encourage more people to come forward for testing." He added that the "great thing" about home-based testing is its "ease" and that it is "completely confidential." Christine Bowman, consultant physician at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said, "HIV testing is not something people should be afraid to come forward for." She added, "Thousands of people in the U.K. are tested each year, but we would like to test more" (Lahive, Sheffield Star, 5/21).