Ministry of Health with support from partners has introduced an oral HIV Self-test kit to complement the existing strategies in the fight against HIV and a feasible way, to promote Male involvement in this fight. This kit was introduced under the theme; “Improving Access to HIV Testing through Self Testing” at Hotel Africana last week.
The new oral fluid self-test kit requires a person to press a flat pad firmly against his/her gum and swab it along the upper and lower gum once; then put the flat pad in a tube and wait for 20 minutes. When the red line moves to letter C, it means the person is negative, while if the red line moves to letter T implies being HIV-Positive. The test kit can only be used once.
The HIV self-test kit was piloted in Central and Mid-Western regions among three key populations; Fishermen, Female sex workers and Male Partners of women attending Antenatal Care (ANC) Services. Results from the study showed that seven in ten men enrolled and accepted to know their HIV status using the antibody self-test kits.
During the dissemination of the results of the HIV Self Testing Kit, Acting Director General Health Services, Prof. Anthony Mbonye noted that these results will facilitate policy development and procurement of the necessary commodities in the HIV fight.
Prof. Mbonye underscored the country’s efforts in containing the HIV epidemic which has led to a number of achievements. “As a country, the number of HIV related deaths have significantly reduced, the number of individuals on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) has increased from 17,000 to 1,000,000 while the number of health facilities providing HIV testing services has increased from 400 to 5,000 facilities countrywide” Prof. Mbonye said amidst cheers from the audience.
He also applauded Uganda’s political leadership for the instrumental role played to end the HIV scourge. “Last month, Uganda signed the Presidential Fast-track Initiative on ending AIDS by 2030. This is evidence that we have stepped up efforts to achieve the UNAIDS 90:90:90 target by 2020” Prof. Mbonye said.
“Testing is an essential step to ending the HIV epidemic in Uganda. One million individuals have been identified and enrolled on chronic care. What is left is to identify the remaining HIV infected individuals” Mbonye noted. He said with the Ora Quick HIV self-test kit, confidentiality and privacy issues will be made easy since it is done in the comfort of one’s house as opposed to testing of blood that requires one to access a medical facility.
However, in Uganda, engagement of men in HIV prevention and treatment programs remains one of the biggest challenges. In 2016 alone, 14,348 men died of AIDS compared to 9,600 women. The launch of the HIV Self-Test Kit is therefore timely since it will encourage male involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS by bringing the service closer.
The Principal Investigator of this research, Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze; noted that a number of studies have been conducted on HIV Self-Testing and in Kenya, the oral fluid self-test has registered massive results ever since it was rolled out four years ago.
Program Manager, AIDS Control Program, Dr. Joshua Musinguzi says that the results of the HIV Self-test kit are acceptable and feasible and can be adopted in the current testing guidelines. He adds that HIV Counseling and Testing services are a key entry point to identify the infected individuals. “The HIV negative should be linked to preventive measures such as condom use, safe Male Circumcision among many more” Dr. Musinguzi urged.
The Government is drafting mechanisms that will ensure the proper sensitization of the general public on use of the self-test kit.
Sources; Ministry of Health