Access to self-testing is one of the pillars of Australia’s HIV prevention strategy.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration in late 2021 expanded access to these tests from limited sexual health outlets to community pharmacy.
AIDS response organisations have described availability of the self-test devices as a critically important additional tool to help people know their HIV status.
The move to offer HIV self-test devices through community pharmacies is consistent with the National HIV Strategy 2018-2022. This Strategy includes a priority to “improve the frequency, regularity and targeting of access to testing for priority populations and to decrease the rate of late diagnoses”.
Recent data shows a significant decline in HIV testing as a result of COVID-19 disruptions.
Helping reverse this trend, the availability of HIV self-test devices from community pharmacies will not only benefit at-risk people in major cities but also increase accessibility for people in regional and rural communities with less access to health care services. The rollout through pharmacies will progress over coming months as they respond to demand.
Pharmacists are highly trained and experienced in conversing with patients about their health matters. Community pharmacists already supply a range of self-testing devices such as blood glucose and blood pressure monitors as well as oximeters and pregnancy tests.
Ability to undertake an HIV test, similar in process to tests for diabetes, in the privacy of home will increase testing rates and help deliver better health outcomes.
Pharmacy Guild of Australia National President, Trent Twomey, said the move was consistent with a broader shift in focus of health care from treatment to preventative action.
Professor Twomey said.
By stocking these tests, pharmacists are continuing the vital role they have played in HIV management with the provision of pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP and PEP). In addition, having tests in pharmacies will help to eliminate stigma, and this can be helped by having the test visible and not hidden behind the counter.
TGA conditions for supply require that any stockists of HIV self-test kits must complete education on the importance of self-testing, recommendations for self-testing and points of concern.
Guild Learning and Development, in conjunction with its strategic partner the Australasian College of Pharmacy, has partnered with Atomo Diagnostics, manufacturer of HIV self-tests, to develop education on HIV self-testing with a new online module on this topic titled ‘HIV self-testing and community pharmacy’.
Completion of this learning will equip pharmacists with knowledge about HIV self-testing and serve as training for pharmacists to supply HIV self-test kits as per the TGA requirement that training is completed prior to supply.
This module aims to increase pharmacist confidence in supplying HIV self-test kits and responding to consumer queries.
Guild Learning and Development thanks Atomo Diagnostics for its financial and subject matter assistance in developing this course.
Please contact Guild Learning and Development on 1800 049 056 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Pharmacists who wish to order self-tests can do so directly through Atomo Diagnostics by emailing email@example.com.