Kenyans to test for HIV at home

Friday July 22 2016

A health officer tests a patient for HIV. Self-testing will be introduced in Kenya soon. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A health officer tests a patient for HIV. Self-testing will be introduced in Kenya soon. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ANGELA OKETCH
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DURBAN, South Africa

Kenyans will be able to conduct tests for HIV in the comfort of their homes by December.

The director of the National Aids Control Council has said the move is aimed at “reaching those who are infected, but do not know their status”.

The test will cost about Sh1,100 and can be “confidential and discreet”, especially for young adults who fear going for the test in health facilities.

Someone will be able to purchase the kit, collect a sample of their blood, perform the test and interpret the results.

Dr Nduku Kilonzo said the self-test is one way to close the testing gap as nearly half a million people who should be on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment do not know they are HIV-positive.

Dr Kilonzo said the tests would be appropriate for counties grappling with a shortage of health workers.

Those who test positive for HIV can follow up with health providers for further testing.

In an exclusive interview with the Nation in Durban, South Africa, on the sidelines of the 21st Aids Conference, Dr Kilonzo said the self-test was mainly targeting people who feel stigmatised and discriminated against when they go to health facilities.

“Most people are concerned about confidentiality of their status, more so adolescents. If they cannot get it at a health facility, they would rather go for self-testing,” she said.

“When we shall be rolling out the programme, we will ensure that if the participants are not comfortable going to the hospital, they can communicate with a health provider via the Internet or through the use of mobile phones and confidential text messaging for anonymity.”

Long queues and facilities that are not youth-friendly also keep the young people away from accessing the test, said Rasheed David Mataha, a youth panellist attending the conference.

“With self-testing I am assured of anonymity and privacy,” he added.

Dr Kilonzo said there were guidelines to be followed. These would also ensure that the quality of the kits is observed.

She said a pilot study in the country had shown that HIV self-testing was facilitating access to Post-exposure Prophylaxis among health workers because accessing existing testing at their facility was a barrier.

Self-testing is not new as it is already in use in Australia, France, Britain and the United States, according to the World Health Organisation.