Boost for HIV self-testing

Sunday Mail Reporters
At least 600 000 HIV self-testing kits will be distributed countrywide over the next two years as Government widens options for testing in line with national and global targets.

The nationwide programme started in July this year following a successful one-month pilot in 2016.

Government is acquiring self-testing kits in partnership with Self-Testing in Africa (Star) and the International Drug Purchasing Facility. The self-testing kits are available in major hospitals, district clinics and selected community health centres. Government says the kits will be distributed for free to individuals above 16 under the same conditions of HIV testing, which includes availability of a health counsellor.

Secretary for Health and Child Care Dr Gerald Gwinji said: “The instructions for use have been translated into local languages. Furthermore, community- based distributers will provide HIV pre-test information.

“In the pilot phase we distributed 219 777 kits through trained community- based distributors. The pilot was aimed at assessing the acceptability and feasibility of implementing the programme in the different settings in the country. Further, this was also meant to guide the full country scale up with the lessons drawn from this pilot.”

The pilot was implemented in eight districts: Bulilima, Mazowe, Gweru, Chivi, Gutu, Mberengwa, Masvingo and Buhera.

“The results showed that HIV self-testing was highly acceptable among the different population groups including those clients who were reluctant to come for testing at health facilities,” said Dr Gwinji.

HIV self-testing kits allow people to test blood or saliva samples and get a result in 20-40 minutes. Some pharmacies have been selling the kits for US$5 each since last year.

Southern African countries promoting use of HIV self-testing kits include Malawi, South Africa and Zambia. Health Ministry statistics show that about 1,4 million people are living with HIV in Zimbabwe but only 74 percent know their status.

Government wants this figure to reach at least 90 percent by 2020.

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