New law which will allow people to find out whether or not they are infected with HIV by testing in the comfort of their own homes is a "welcome" move, according to a leading HIV charity.
Lisa Power, policy director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said:
We warmly welcome this decision, which Terrence Higgins Trust has long campaigned for. People deserve to have a choice about how and where they test for HIV and proper regulation will make self testing a safe and supported option for many more people across the country.
The public response to our highly successful home sampling scheme shows that many people who have never tested before, or who have been putting off a visit to a clinic, are willing to test at home.
Currently, most HIV transmission in the UK is driven by the 25,000 people who have HIV but have not yet been diagnosed. Anything that encourages these people to test, take control of their health and get treatment is a welcome advance.
Plans to allow people to self-test whether they have HIV in their own homes follow the Health Protection Agency's warning last November that a record number of people in the UK were living with HIV, with the number of people with the virus reaching nearly 100,000.
Officials from the Department of Health are expected to say that home testing may help people detect their infection earlier on - which could lead to more effective treatment options and reduce the infection spreading.
Public Health Minister Anna Soubry is expected to say:
The stigma and fear surrounding HIV may mean that some people are afraid or reluctant to go to a clinic to be tested.
I hope that by removing the ban on self-testing kits people will be able to choose the right time and right surroundings to take a test and, if positive, help them get the best treatment available. Clear information on how to get immediate support will be provided with the kits.
People who are concerned that they might have HIV will soon be able to find out whether or not they are infected in the comfort of their own homes, officials are to announce.
At present it is illegal in the UK to do a HIV test at home and read the result yourself - people can take a sample themselves, send it off for testing in a laboratory and receive the result at a later date.
But officials are planning to change the outdated laws so people can perform a simple saliva test at home which will quickly give the user a "negative" or a "positive indication" result.
Health experts hope that making the tests more readily available will help reduce infection rates.
Two HIV-positive patients in the US who underwent bone marrow transplants for cancer have stopped anti-retro viral therapy and still show no detectable signs of the virus, researchers said.
It was announced last year that blood samples taken from the men, who both had blood cancers, showed no traces of the HIV virus eight months after they received bone marrow transplants to replace cancerous blood cells with healthy donor cells.
The men, who were still on anti-HIV drugs at the time, have since stopped anti-retroviral therapy and show no signs of the virus.
The Harvard University researchers stressed it was too early to say if the men had been cured but said it was an encouraging sign that the virus had not rebounded months after drug treatment ended.
The National AIDS Trust has said that measures to stop visitors to the UK taking advantage of healthcare for free would also threaten the health of Britons.
The proposals, if enforced, would undermine years of work to encourage marginalised at-risk groups to access HIV testing and treatment.
By limiting access to primary care for some migrants living in England we would cut off the only place many of them will get an HIV diagnosis - short of presenting at A&E many years after they were infected, once they are very seriously ill.
We are calling on the Government not to limit universal primary care access to migrants living in England. If they go ahead they risk putting lives at risk and accelerating the spread of HIV in the general population.
– Deborah Jack, Chief executive, National AIDS Trust
A Department of Health spokeswoman said people with HIV would still receive free healthcare if the scheme went ahead.