HIV self-test kits, which enable users to determine their HIV status themselves, can be sold in Switzerland with effect from 19 June 2018. In the interests of public health and at the recommendation of the Federal Commission for Sexual Health (FCSH) and Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), the therapeutic products agency Swissmedic has approved the dispensing of tests for self-use. Obtaining tests from dispensing outlets such as pharmacies or druggists is recommended to minimise the risk of purchasing a counterfeit.
Up to now, HIV tests in Switzerland could only be performed in a professional environment, for example by a doctor or at a hospital. As of 19 June, anyone will be able to test themselves at home to see whether they might have been infected with HIV, as they can already do in several other countries. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and Federal Commission for Sexual Health (FCSH) expect simplified access to HIV testing to motivate more people to protect their own and public health by establishing whether or not they have the virus.
Not everyone who has HIV knows that they have been infected and are HIV positive. It is estimated that this group accounts for about one fifth of all infected people in Switzerland. Experience from several countries shows that HIV self-testing makes it possible to reach people who might not otherwise have had a test. The FOPH and FCSH have therefore recommended that the dispensing of HIV self-test kits be approved in Switzerland and that low-threshold access to kits be provided. Swissmedic is acting on this recommendation by approving the dispensing of HIV tests for self-use, provided the tests comply with the legal requirements. HIV tests that have CE markings on their packaging and on the instruction leaflet are compliant. There must also be a statement that the test is intended or suitable for self-use.
Each testing kit must be issued with appropriate accompanying information, explaining among other things that a reactive (positive) test result probably indicates HIV infection. Anyone who gets a positive result will be instructed to contact a doctor as quickly as possible and have the result of the self-test verified by a laboratory test.
It will also be possible to buy HIV self-testing kits on the Internet. However, the FOPH and Swissmedic recommend obtaining kits from dispensing outlets such as pharmacies or druggists to minimise the risk of purchasing a counterfeit.
- Federal Office of Public Health: National Programme for HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections (NPHS)
- Recommendation of the Federal Commission for Sexual Health (FCSH) on the dispensing of HIV tests for self-use (“HIV self-test kits”) to the public. See FOPH Bulletin of 18 June 2018 (French or German only) – www.bag.admin.ch/bag-bulletin.