Malawian women jump on Oral HIV safe-testing, men shunning

Oral HIV self-testing initiative currently under trial has seen more women embracing the idea than men with the research expected to conclude by June this year.

Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine started conducting the research in 2012 in selected high density townships of Chilomoni, Ndirande and Likhubula in Blantyre city.

In an interview with Nyasa Times,  Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Research Assistant, Augustine Choko disclosed that the initiative has received overwhelming uptake of around 84 percent.

Oral self-testing HIV kit

Oral self-testing HIV kit

“Out of the adult population of 16,660 (16-years and above), 12,568 have done safe-testing representing 77 percent. Its more women who are taking up the trial safe-testing than men; the study will be no extension to other areas,” said Choko.

He then disclosed that a comparison done in 2010 between rapid testing kit-blood test-and oral safe-testing kit revealed that the latter was more effective and proved to build up confidence in people to under-go HIV testing.

“Self-testing offers opportunity for people to take full control of their testing environment as most people don’t like testing in local clinic facilities where they feel there is little privacy,” he added.

Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are working in partnership with College of Medicine and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine on the study.

During the study, selected participants are given oral HIV testing kits to test themselves for HIV. The test works by detecting the response that a person’s body makes when become infected with HIV what is called “antibody” response.

The current research follows up self-testing evaluation in 2010 by Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which indicated that self-testing had promising results.

The research will determine if self-testing with confirmatory blood testing could be an effective way of bringing down rates of undiagnosed HIV and new cases of TB in this area of high HIV prevalence.

It is believed that making self-testing available in the community would increase HIV-test uptake and frequency, especially among men, by couples and by people who had already tested once or more before. 28 volunteers have been trained in HIV testing and counselling by the Ministry of Health.

Once implemented, HIV self-testing initiative is believed will offer greater confidentiality and increase number of people taking up voluntary HIV testing thereby improving HIV/TB control which has been hit by low regular uptake of HIV testing by adult individuals. Recommendations are that all adults should test for HIV at least once every year.

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