An innovative vending machine for HIV tests being piloted in Britain aims to help in the fight to end the epidemic by encouraging more people to find out whether they have contracted the virus as a first step to seek treatment, a doctor said. Scarlett Cvitanovich reports.
Providing the results of an HIV test within minutes. This first-of-its-kind machine is aiming to encourage more people to find out whether they have contracted the virus. It's being piloted in Britain at a gay sauna in the southern seaside city of Brighton. Doctor Gill Dean is an HIV specialist with the Martin Fisher Foundation, the charity behind the project. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR GILL DEAN, HIV SPECIALIST WITH THE MARTIN FISHER FOUNDATION SAYING: "So it is to increase HIV testing to try and encourage people who haven't tested so far to test and for people who don't test very regularly to test more regularly. Also for people not accessing traditional services, it gives them an opportunity to pick up a test and test in the privacy of their own home if that's what they chose to do. So it increases choice essentially." Finger prick self-testing kits can be collected free and anonymously from the touch screen machine, aiming to give more privacy and help reduce anxiety, as traditional testing methods can take a few days to arrive. Instead, a user can choose when they wish to give one blood sample, and can expect a result within 15 minutes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CALLUM STRIPP, 18-YEAR-OLD, CUSTOMER AT SAUNA AND USER OF HIV TEST VENDING MACHINE SAYING: "Kind of less embarrassing than it is actually going to a clinic because there is kind of like, all that stigma still, so it's a lot easier and a lot carefree than actually having to go to the doctors and stuff." In the first six weeks since the machine was installed, it dispensed more tests than charity workers had collected at the sauna in the preceding six months. With an estimated 14 percent of the more than 100-thousand people living with HIV in Britain undiagnosed, experts are hoping the machine will help end the epidemic. Working as a first step towards a person seeking treatment.