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Home HIV test kits reach Finland

The HIV test involves testing a blood sample from the fingertip, gives results in 15 minutes and can be carried out in privacy at home.

Hiv-testausta verestä.
File photo. Image: AOP
Yle News

Starting next week Finnish residents will be able to test themselves for HIV in the privacy of their own homes.

The test, which takes about 15 minutes and costs 40 euros, will be distributed by Finnish firm Orion Diagnostica starting on Monday 27 August.

The executive director of the Finnish HIV Foundation (also known as Hivpoint), Jukka Keronen said he hopes the home test will lower the threshold for people wondering whether they may have an HIV infection.

"A home test is easy to do, and [it's done] anonymously in your own home," Keronen said.

The tests will first be available at Yliopiston Apteekki pharmacies as well as at Hivpoint's online store.

Previous similar kits have varied considerably in terms of reliability but the new tests have been approved by the EU.

There are an estimated 800 HIV-positive people in Finland who do not know they are infected. Carriers of the virus can be symptom-free for several years.

Left untreated, HIV infection advances until the body's immune system is so weak that it cannot fight other fatal infections and cancers. This stage is called AIDS.

Treatable condition, if detected in time

According to Hivpoint people can shield themselves from HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections by practicing safe sex.

The organisation has collected comments from people who have tried the home test and said most were pleased about how problem-free it was, according to Keronen.

He said that it is a good idea for people to test themselves if they have had unprotected sex with someone but were unsure of their HIV status.

"You cannot determine who has HIV by looking for symptoms or someone's personality. The only way is to be tested," Keronen said, noting that people are often hesitant to ask about sex-related health care due to feelings of embarrassment.

He said such feelings can be particularly difficult to deal with for people who live in small communities where most everyone knows one another, adding that it can also be difficult for health care providers to connect with homosexual or bisexual men.

Keronen said that in order to reduce HIV infections, the threshold for people in high-risk groups to get tested for the virus needs to be lowered.

He said the earlier an HIV infection is detected, the better the prognosis for treatment . When HIV is discovered and treated with medication, the virus is no longer contagious, he added.

Hivpoint has previously teamed up with the Finnish Red Cross to provide condoms and instant HIV tests to Finnish seniors heading across the eastern border to engage in sex tourism.

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