Will self-testing for HIV in Africa turn deadly tide?
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
7/15/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
HIV self-testing is being explored as a way of encouraging more individuals in Africa, particularly in high risk groups. It's estimated that less than half of all HIV-positive people on the African continent are unaware of their status.
Sex workers and men who have sex with men (the new euphemism for men who engage in homosexual acts with one another) are among the groups facing the heaviest burden of HIV. These groups are the most hard to reach in terms of testing and treatment.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As an example, only about 15 percent of all Zambians, 25 percent of all South Africans and 39 percent of Swazis had been tested for HIV in 2011. In Botswana, the rate was higher with 62 percent of the population tested for HIV in 2011.
This, in spite of the decades of investment in testing and counselling for the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
According to Katie Nguyen, with Thomson-Reuters, one of the main reasons people in sub-Saharan Africa not getting tested for HIV 10 or 15 years ago was the lack of treatment for HIV. Drugs today can control the virus are now far more available.
"Some people continue to live in denial. But we also know that some people don't know their status because of stigma and discrimination," Felicitas Chiganze, chief operating officer of the Southern African AIDS Trust says.
The trust published legal research this week comparing laws and outlining the human rights implications of HIV self-testing in 10 countries. These included Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe where it works, and the United States, France, Britain and South Africa.
"We felt that if there was some initiative or some method that would enable people to know their status without going through some of the formal channels, that this could actually contribute to increasing the uptake for HIV testing," Chiganze said in a telephone interview.
Chiganze said sex workers and men who have sex with men ( the newest euphemism for men who engage in homosexual acts with one another) are among the groups facing the heaviest burden of HIV. These groups are the most hard to reach in terms of testing and treatment.
The research was released ahead of July 20-25 international conference on AIDS in Melbourne, where one of the key themes will be how the world can step up the pace against HIV/AIDS.
To date, the United States is the only country which has an authorized HIV self-testing kit on the market, and that although HIV self-testing is legal in Britain, no kits have met minimum European standards for use in the UK.
The study also identified barriers to HIV self-testing in the African countries. In Tanzania and Botswana, for example, HIV testing is restricted to government-approved testing centers and can only be done under the supervision of a trained professional. In South Africa, pharmacies are forbidden from selling HIV self-testing kits although self-testing is not outlawed there.
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