COVID-19 underscores need for Canada to approve HIV self-tests, says researcher

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A researcher says she's hopeful that the push to make rapid COVID-19 testing kits available in Canada will help hasten the regulatory approval of devices that let people to check their HIV status at home.

A new paper published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal is reiterating calls from the health-care community for Canada to follow dozens of other countries in introducing HIV self-testing kits.

Co-author Nitika Pant Pai says Health Canada needs to act quickly in approving oral, blood-based and urine-based self-tests for Canada to reach its HIV screening targets.

The medical professor at McGill University says COVID-19 has helped show that self-testing is "the way of the future," and is just as needed in Canada's HIV response as it is to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Pant Pai says it'll take a combination of political willpower on behalf of the provinces and industry innovation to ensure these technologies reach the marginalized populations that most need them.

She says these conversations have become more urgent as the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the barriers many people face to getting tested for HIV in clinical settings.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2020.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press