One thing is extremely important in the fight against HIV/AIDS : #KnowYourStatus. As far as the topic of sexual health is concerned and as in any other, knowledge is power. Being aware of your condition can not only save your life and help you live a perfectly normal life, but it will also prevent you from unknowingly spreading the virus.
However, the mere act of getting tested can represent a challenge to many people. The UK based start-up BioSure is removing the middle person, which in turn eliminates a lot of the barriers that get in the way of getting tested. The BioSure technology allows you to get tested in the comfort of your home and provides immediate results with the highest level of accuracy. Therefore, this is a form of healthcare that empowers people to take control and responsibility for their own well-being.
There are no questions, no waiting, no labs, no excuses.
Innovation Origins had a short interview about the start-up with CEO and Founder Brigette Bard.
How does it work?
The BioSURE HIV Self Test is the world’s simplest HIV test because it doesn’t need any mixing or measuring and you can do it wherever and whenever you like. It has an accuracy of more than 99.7% and requires just a tiny drop of blood. In just 15 minutes it offers you your own easy-to-read results.
What was the motivation behind the creation of BioSure?
Well, BioSure was founded on the same fundamental principles as pregnancy testing was (a self-test everyone is familiar with!) Nowadays, a woman would never take time off work to go and see a healthcare professional, be subject to questions about having unprotected sex and then have to wait days for her result. People deserve a much greater choice in how they choose to test themselves, plus they are much more capable and prepared to take responsibility than a lot of policymakers give them credit for. So, at the end of the day we provide a choice.
What are the benefits of using BioSure?
It puts you in control and quite honestly, it could not be any simpler! Everything you need is included and the safety lancet only needs the tiniest drop of blood. A tip, always use the side of your finger because there are far fewer nerves there. After this, place the lancet device on the blood and it will automatically fill up with exactly the right amount, then push the device to the bottom of the buffer pot – and hey presto – minutes later you know your own status. As we say, ‘it’s as easy as Prick, Suck, Poke.’
There’s lots of other things we’ have thought about. The most important thing that people want to know is can they trust their result. The BioSURE HIV Self Test has a genuine inbuilt sample control line, so the negative line will only appear if you use enough blood and you have done everything correctly. If you do something wrong or don’t use enough blood with this, no lines come up – so you can be confident about your result. Incredibly, not all HIV self- tests have this and end up always giving you a negative result even when you do them incorrectly.
What makes it different from other similar startups?
We are still a small team, that are adept, agile and most importantly, deeply passionate about what we are doing. We feel incredibly fortunate to do what we do and to really be making a difference to people’s lives. Our team here are amazing and our core values based around quality, credibility and trust run right through every part of our business and drive us to continue to innovate and be the best we can possibly be. We are totally committed to our journey
What has been the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome?
Where to begin? When we started, it wasn’t even possible to sell an HIV self-test, so we managed to get the legislation revoked working together with lobby groups in the UK. Back then, there wasn’t even a regulatory framework established for gaining CE marking, so we helped develop that – plus there was skepticism about whether people would even want to test themselves. When we eventually launched in April 2015, our test was the highest risk in-vitro diagnostic product (IVD) ever to have been approved and the level of excitement and media coverage was incredible.
Generally working in the field of HIV in itself is an obstacle, as people are still unbelievably reticent when it comes to talking about it, the big companies are worried about negative PR and in general people are scared. We have invested heavily in education, because so many people still don’t know that treatments are so good nowadays. E.g., that if you take anti-retroviral medicine regularly, the virus is able to be suppressed to undetectable levels, which means your own health is protected and amazingly, you can’t pass it on. So getting the message out that you don’t have to be worried about knowing your status, but that you should worry about not knowing it. Because if you don’t test for it, you can’t treat it.
Was there a moment in where you thought of giving up?
Loads! We couldn’t have chosen a more difficult path to tread – strict regulations, narrow minded stakeholders, creating a market from scratch (which is long and expensive!). But, it has been amazing and we have now launched in South Africa, Kenya and Brazil, with plenty more to come. We get messages of thanks from our customers pretty much every day and believe we are creating an army of HIV warriors – that is an amazing motivator!
What has been the most gratifying moment?
The core hope at the very heart of our business is that we want to make a difference – and we believe that we do. We’ve embarked on a journey on how to make people feel more confident in their choices and take responsibility for their healthcare. The double whammy is that we are actually changing the conversation about how people think and feel and talk about HIV. We know we are pioneering this and are so amazed that we are now delivering this on a global level.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Watch this space! We are rolling out BioSURE in a number of countries now and have an R&D pipeline for tests for other conditions.
What is your ultimate goal?
Our ultimate goal is for BioSURE to be THE trusted self-test brand, so our dream is to be on every retail pharmacy shelf, giving people more and more choice in how they test themselves, and deliver a message and communication that make them feel confident and empowered to take control.
BioSure is a U=U partner and our team are genuinely passionate about supporting the U=U campaign and the global plan to eradicate HIV/AIDS by 2030 by helping people find out their HIV status on their own terms.
Can you tell me a bit about the feedback that you’ve gotten?
There are literally thousands of stories and questions you can look at on a free and anonymous independent social enterprise site called PEBL. To quote ‘there’s no risk of identification, nastiness or abuse.’ You could even join in on the conversation
Is it available in the whole Europe?
Theoretically yes, as the BioSURE HIV Self Test is CE marked and it is available on-line, in particluar via Amazon, but we have concentrated on our key markets in the UK, South Africa and now Brazil. Fingers crossed you will see us on the shelves in Europe in 2020!