Home HIV testing sector seeing significant investment that will save lives

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Testing. Photo: Flickr

Back in the 1980s, HIV and AIDS were big news. High-profile TV and media campaigns kept the topic at the forefront of our minds, and served as a constant reminder of the importance of following safe sexual health practices and getting tested if there was the slightest possibility you might be infected.

Thirty years later, the landscape has changed. Antiretroviral therapy has come on in leaps and bounds, and to put it bluntly, HIV is no longer the death sentence that is was seen as back in those scary days.

The downside is that a medical condition that can be managed and controlled with the right treatment regime does not attract the same mass media hype as the epidemic that was reaching plague proportions among the most high-risk demographics just three decades ago. Yet early diagnosis is still of critical importance – perhaps even more so now than back then, as the sooner a diagnosis is made, the more effective the treatment is in managing the condition and providing those who are HIV positive with a chance to lead a more or less normal life.

The home testing market: There were all manner of unhelpful epithets thrown around in less enlightened times regarding HIV, due to the demographic profiles of those most at risk, ie homosexuals, users of intravenous drugs and the sexually promiscuous. Times have changed, but the stigma has been difficult to shift, particularly in parts of Africa, where prejudice and misinformation is rife. This means everyday people are still reluctant to seek professional help and get the diagnosis that could save their lives.

The introduction of home HIV testing in the UK and North America has provided the opportunity for more people to get the diagnoses they so badly need, when they need it, by allowing them to simply buy a kit online from hivtestkit.co.uk without having to talk to anyone, and test themselves at home.

If these kits can make such a difference in industrialized societies that consider themselves relatively enlightened and comfortable about discussing HIV/AIDS openly, then the potential impact in developing nations could be even more significant.

Investment: When the European Investment Fund stopped its contributions to UK startups due to Brexit, the government provided the venture capital industry with a £400 million cash boost ($543 million) to soften the blow. However, it came with some strings attached, and has prompted angel investors to seek out opportunities that have strong social benefits.

Little wonder, then, that the home HIV testing market has attracted such a flurry of attention.

VentureFounders is one such example, and has invested significantly in an Essex-based provider of the test kits, allowing them to introduce them into African and South American markets.

It is not every day that investors are presented with a market that has immense growth potential and will bring significant returns, while at the same time saving scores of lives and delivering unparalleled social benefits. If they help to get these kits to the people who need it most, and at the same time increase education and awareness, the investment cannot come too soon.


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