“It's another alternative that has added to all the others that already exist, such as routine analysis, the possibility of testing at a health centre, hospital or community-based organization. It's one more option, which aims to facilitate access to diagnosis,” said Isabel Aldir, head of the National Programme for HIV / AIDS.
The difference in this test, according to the expert of the Directorate-General of Health, is that it can be taken home and done autonomously.
The test has an associated cost, which should be around 20 to 25 Euros, although the price will be defined by the pharmacies that decide to sell it.
The fact that it has an associated cost can be a deterrent to some people, admits Isabel Aldir, adding that in these cases there are ways to perform the test for free, such as in health centres or community-based organizations.
This self-test solution may be an option for those who prefer, even if they spend money, to perform the test at home.
In Cascais, there are pharmacies already conducting a free rapid HIV / AIDS screening test, an initiative that Isabel Aldir hopes will be extended to other cities, notably Lisbon and Porto.
The test to be done at home, which is now being sold in pharmacies, consists of a finger prick, and the blood is placed in a reagent strip. In minutes a result is displayed.
According to the head of the Directorate-General for Health, the test is "very sensitive and very specific", with a high probability that the result corresponds to the actual state of infection.
In the event of a reactive result, the person should contact the NHS 24, which can provide information and support and then refer to a hospital service where the result should be confirmed. Alternatively, contact your GP or community organization to clarify your doubts and take a confirmatory test.
For the president of the Portuguese League against AIDS, this testis a "window of opportunity" to extend the testing or screening, but it is essentially for those who have the economic power to do so.
Maria Eugénia Saraiva, from the League, told Lusa that there are segments of the population that will not have the opportunity to buy these self-tests.
"There are still other services they can turn to, such as community-based organizations that perform not only this type of testing but also various sexually transmitted infections," she said, noting that the Portuguese League against AIDS has a mobile screening unit that goes to neighbourhoods and seeks populations more vulnerable to other infections.
"Many of these people will certainly not be able to afford this test" she said.
The president of the Abraço Association, Gonçalo Lobo, also states that the goal is that “the testing of HIV / AIDS” should be “as democratic as possible” and anywhere in the country.
Regarding the self-test to perform at home, Gonçalo Lobo considers that it has the advantage of minimizing contacts with health professionals who may inquire about sexual habits or ask the reasons for wanting to perform a test.
“We live in a country that still has the guilt associated with the issue of sexuality. When I don't have to confront a person who asks questions, it is made easier from the point of view of guilt or shame,” he said.
On 1 October a symbolic action of dismissal of the first self-test sold in Portugal took place in a pharmacy in Lisbon, with the motto “Life is not a blind test”, an initiative that was attended by Isabel Aldir, from DGS, from the Activists Group in Treatments (GAT), the laboratory that commercializes the test of the Association of Pharmacies of Portugal.