Population Services International (PSI) Malawi in conjunction with Pakachere says providing self-testing opportunities to key populations is a crucial element in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Project Manager for Self Testing Africa (STAR) at PSI, Richard Chirongosi made the proclamation on Monday in Mulanje, adding that the fight against HIV and AIDS has always been a challenge due to the country’s inability to fully reach out to some key populations like commercial sex workers who are always mobile.
According to Chirongosi, over the past years there has been an outcry by Non-governmental Organizations as well as government departments conducting HIV and AIDS related activities in the country in the way some groups such as men, the youths and commercial sex workers are reluctant to go for HIV testing and receiving treatment altogether, hence the need to reach out to these populations in another approach so that nobody is left unattended to as far as the HIV and AIDS fight is concerned.
Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting where PSI introduced the concept in Mulanje, Chirongosi said Self Testing has over the years proved to be vital to provision of HIV related health services to most-at-risk populations in the HIV and AIDS dynamics in other African countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“For that reason we want to conduct a pilot survey project in Mulanje which would help us appreciate how effective the project would be in Malawi before we consider taking it nationwide,” he added.
District AIDS Coordinator for Mulanje, Charles Lomoni confirmed that men and female sex workers continued to be hard-to-reach with Health facility delivered HIV services as they do not patronize the facilities in the district.
“This is where we need self testing to come in and cover such a gap; and I believe that it will really help us a lot in the fight against HIV and AIDS because if we must fulfill the 90-90-90 strategy set by government then we must not leave anybody behind,” he added.
90-90-90 is a world strategy adopted by Malawi in 2015 whose goals are that by the year 2020, at least 90 percent of the Malawi’s population should be aware of their cero status; and among those aware of their status by 2020, 90 percent should be on Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART); and finally among those on ART, by the year 2020, at least 90 percent should have their viral load suppressed, as an indication that they are following instructions while taking their ARV drugs.