Population Service International (PSI) Malawi and UNITAID are currently piloting the HIV Self-Testing (HIVST) project in the country and the exercise is proving more acceptable by men as compared to the previous arrangement of testing in healthy facilities.
PSI Program manager, Richard Chilongosi revealed that more men are utilizing HIV Self-Testing due to its convenience and flexibility in terms of time and privacy.
The HIV Self-Testing kit is a self conducted test which utilized various bodily fluids including saliva and does not require needles as one swabs the bodily fluids and self runs the test whose results are conclusive within 20 minutes.
“The test is done by one’s self at their chosen time at a chosen place and also the oneself testing knows the results first before anyone else and for these reasons, men have fallen in love with the mechanism.
Chilongosi gave an example of Chifunga health centre in Neno where 543 self testing kits were distributed and men had 58 percent of the kits.
“ All along women have been in the forefront in as far as HIV testing is concerned for the fact that they frequent health facilities due to various reasons ranging from maternal to children under five clinics through which they get exposed to HIV testing as compared to men,” explained Chilongosi.
The HIV Self-Testing has also proven a solution to the common excuses that men used to pose for not patronizing HIV testing in health facilities due to long distances that were deemed time consuming as such not friendly to most men who are in most cases very industrious to fetch for and busy their families.
“Men are mostly busy people as such most of them never visited HIV testing centers and this Self-Testing method is here to break that barrier,” added Chilongosi.
PSI Malawi’s HIV ambassador, American actress Debra Messing who recently visited Malawi to see how the HIV Self-Testing Africa (STAR) project is settling in Malawi, expressed hope in the initiative as it appears well embraced by the people on the ground including men.
Messing referred to the project as a game changer in as far as Malawi’s fight against the HIV and AIDS by ensuring that all manners of people access the test which is the first step for one to make an informed decision.
“ It is difficult to get men to the health centre, they do not want to be seen queuing for the test, they do not have the time to walk for 5 to 6 hours which is sometimes required to get to the nearest health facility in some areas, so the STAR is the solution,” explained Messing.
Ministry of health’s spokes person, Adrian Chikumbe said government is impressed with STAR project as it is bringing the test to a different group within the population to the usual which has always tested even during HIV testing campaign weeks resulting in no yielded results.
Chikumbe explained that chances are there that the project will be rolled out national wide based on the great results being derived in the piloted districts of Neno, Mwanza, Machinga and Blantyre.
“At the moment its only 50 percent of the people that are HIV positive that are aware of their status and the STAR initiative will help in increasing the number of those aware of their status as this cuts though the distance and time barrier,” explained Chimbali.
The STAR initiative which is being piloted in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbawe and South Africa is expected to join in Phase two is targeting people in hard to reach areas, special groups like Men who have sex with Men (MSMs) and female sex workers.
The STAR project is directly dealing with the hindrances that may negatively affect the 90-90-90 goals which include privacy concerns, limited access to HIV testing services (HTS).Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :