HIV self-testing trials soon
15 November 2016
GOVERNMENT will soon roll out HIV self testing trials on a national scale following a successful pilot which was done in one district to ascertain acceptability and feasibility, a health official said.
Head of AIDS and TB unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Owen Mugurungi said the initial pilot project they did in Mazowe had been positive with findings showing that self-testing was accepted and feasible in that district.
Using the Oral Quick or OraSure kit by testing for HIV in saliva enzymes, the nation is moving towards normalising the epidemic.
“We have so far done a pilot in one district which is Mazowe as we sought to assess its acceptability and feasibility and the response has been overwhelming.
“Now that Mazowe is just one district in Zimbabwe, we now want to scale up the trials nationwide, in every province so that we can assess the acceptability and feasibility.
“Acceptability is to see if people like it, then feasibility is if we leave you with the kit, are you able to use it and find your own results,” he said.
Unlike the voluntary HIV testing and counselling done by a health care worker, self test, screening test is performed and interpreted in private but before rolling out the programme, the country is in the process of assessing its feasibility and accuracy when used by non-health care providers.
Dr Mugurungu is on the record acknowledging that the issue of counselling and links to referral services after testing was the critical component that they sought to address before self test can be used in the country.
According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey of 2010/11, only 57 percent of adult women and 34 percent of adult men have ever had an HIV test and received results.
Although there was a decline in HIV prevalence from a peak of 29 percent in 1997 to 16.7 percent in 2014 (2014 HIV estimates) which was attributed to changes in casual sexual behavior, partner concurrency, increased condom use, Increased awareness of HIV/AIDS, ART roll out, the country is still ranked among the most affected in the continent.
A significant decline in estimated annual AIDS related deaths was recorded across all age groups from 52,902 in 2011 to 38,616 in 2014.
The HIV self test as a tool to increase the number of people who know their HIV status is in line with the global HIV targets of the 90.90.90 approach by 2020.
According to the global HIV targets, 90 percent of the world’s population should know their status by 2020, while 90 percent of all people who test positive will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy by the same year and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression by 2020.