Home HIV test by 2009?

First Published –  3 Dec 2007

Oral-based kit to be available here once it gets US FDA approval

TAN HUI LENG

huileng@mediacorp.com.sg

SOON, you could be tested for HIV in the same way you currently take a pregnancy test — in the privacy of your own home, with a home test kit.

And it may happen by 2009, if the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives its approval.

“The FDA in the United States is evaluating that, and once the FDA approves the sale of over-the-counter kits, I would expect the same to happen in Singapore,” said Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and Information, Communication and the Arts, Dr Balaji Sadasivan, yesterday.

He was speaking at the sidelines of a World Aids Day 1.5km walkathon at Orchard Road yesterday. Chief executive of Rockeby biomed, Dr Tan Sze Wee, told TODAY that his company’s oral fluid-based test kit — the only such kit on the market — may get FDA approval by 2009.

Singapore is set to hit another record number in new HIV cases this year — probably more than 400, said Dr Balaji, surpassing last year’s record of 357 cases.

HIV rapid testing is available in some 100 GP clinics now. And making such kits accessible is especially important with Ministry of Health figures showing that there were 356 newly-detected cases of HIV cases between January and October this year.

The ministry has been putting in anti-HIV measures, and a pilot project involving voluntary HIV testing for adult male patients will start either this month or next month at one of the public hospitals, added Dr Balaji. Voluntary HIV testing for healthcare workers has already been introduced in hospitals.

“It has been very successful and almost all our healthcare workers have subscribed to it and gone for testing,” said Dr Balaji.

The MOH is also mulling an amendment to the Infectious Diseases Act, which makes it an offence for HIV-positive people to have sex — regardless of whether they know of their status, as long as they have reason to believe they have been exposed to the risk of contracting the virus.

But they are not liable if they have informed their partner, who voluntarily agrees to undertake the risk, or if they have practised safe sex or tested negative before the act. The Walking to Stop Aids event saw MAC Cosmetics donating $100,000 to the Action for Aids Medications Assistance Fund.