The National Queer Organization, Samtökin ’78, will for the first time be offering rapid tests for hepatitis C and/or HIV at their headquarters at Suðurgata 3 in Reykjavík tomorrow, Thursday, September 21st. This will be done in cooperation with Icelandic health authorities as part of a national campaign to eliminate hepatitis C. We asked Daníel E. Arnarsson, executive director of Samtökin ’78, how this came about and how it will be done.
You are offering rapid tests for hepatitis C and HIV at the headquarters of Samtökin ’78 this week, is this the first time in Iceland that people have the opportunity to have these tests?
“It’s the first time that Samtökin ’78 are offering people these tests, yes, but this spring people could already get tested at Gistiskýlið. It is however not the first time that tests for sexual health are offered at Samtökin ’78, but the last time it was done was probably in 2004. The tests then were not for hepatitis C, but other sexually transmitted diseases. This time it’s part of a campaign to eliminate hepatitis C in Iceland.”
How is the test done and how accurate are the results?
“There are two different tests – one for HIV and the other for hepatitis C – but they look the same and are executed in the same way. They use either saliva or a drop of blood. When saliva is used, the flat pad of the testing device is swapped between lips and gum and then dipped into the test developer solution and left there for twenty minutes.
“The reason Samtökin ’78 are housing these tests is that men who have sex with other men form one of the groups most at risk for these diseases, but we certainly invite everyone to attend.”
When a blood drop is used, a small needle is stuck in a fingertip and a drop of blood squeezed out. That drop is then gathered with a specimen collection loop and mixed in the vial with the test developer solution. Then it’s the same procedure as with the saliva and the results are ready in twenty minutes. It’s a tiny operation, kind of like measuring your blood sugar, and totally without pain. The results have over 98 precent accuracy.”
Will the tests be done in enclosed spaces and how do you guarantee anonymity? “We aim to have the tests in an enclosed space, yes, using one room for the test itself and another for the results. For example, people could get a numbered ticket when the test is done and then that number would be called out when the results are ready, but we are still working on this so maybe it will be done in a different way. In any case, we will not gather any personal information unless the results are positive.”
Will people have to pay for the test?
“No, it’s completely free of charge.”
How did it come about that Samtökin ’78 decided to lend their headquarters for these tests?
“We have had a good cooperation with the A3 outpatient clinic of transmitted diseases. They, along with others, are part of this national campaign to eliminate hepatitis C and asked for a meeting with us. We said yes, of course, because this is a very important matter, as hepatitis C is seldom talked about and this is a worthy effort to eliminate it in Iceland, but to do that people have to get tested for it, so as to be able to treat it, if necessary.”
“There are two different tests – one for HIV and the other for hepatitis C – but they look the same and are executed in the same way … The results have over 98 precent accuracy.”
Does the National Queer Organisation aim to focus more on sexual health in the near future?
“Sexual health is surely high on our list, as it is an urgent subject, especially now. Samtökin ’78 are eager to focus more on that subject and partaking in this campaign could be the beginning of that. We have also had an open discourse with health authorities, hospitals and associations like HIV-Iceland about how to go forward in these matters.”
And the tests are open to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation?
“Of course. We urge everyone to come get tested. The reason Samtökin ’78 are housing these tests is that men who have sex with other men form one of the groups most at risk for these diseases, but we certainly invite everyone to attend.”
And the date is tomorrow, Thursday September 21st, at what time?
“Yes, tomorrow, September 21st between 5 and 9 pm.”