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Experts Call for Effective Usage of Oral HIV Test Kits

Lillian Mworeko, the Executive Director of an NGO – International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA) says that for the method to be put to good use, there needs to be a mechanism that provides all the necessary information from how to use it to for instance on how to deal with a positive result.

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Experts are worried that the population may not be fully prepared on how to deal with a positive HIV result as the country rolls out the oral HIV test kit.

Lillian Mworeko, the Executive Director of an NGO –  International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA) says that for the method to be put to good use, there needs to be a mechanism that provides all the necessary information from how to use it to for instance on how to deal with a positive result. 

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She said with stigmatization is still a major issue in HIV, people using the device should be fully aware in order to make informed decisions about how they get tested and what happens after they get to know of their result. 

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She notes that self-testing takes away an important strand in HIV care which involves use of professionals and conducting counselling which have been helping some of those who test positive to come to terms with their status as they are immediately given clues on how to access care. 

With the kit, Dr Joshua Musinguzi, the Programme Manager AIDs Control Programme at the Ministry of Health says one is supposed to do a confirmatory test at a health facility especially when they test positive and the beauty with it he says it will make it easy for individuals to do regular repeat testing.

Musinguzi explains that in order to get more people to know their status and reduce new infections, there needs to be a mix of ways to get people to choose what works for them. 

He adds that the oral self HIV test kit is mainly targeted for men who are often reluctant to seek care because they are usually turned off by queues at health facilities.

Musinguzi says that the method has been given a nod after study done by Makerere University School of Public Health confirmed its acceptability by the population.  

While the government is still in the process of supplying the kit to hospitals so it can be accessed free of charge, on the market, it goes at a price between 20,000 and 30,000 shillings and the results can be attained in about 20 minutes. 

The kit works by collecting fluid from the gum by swabbing and thereafter what is collected is inserted in a testing solution.  A few minutes after being placed in the solution, the kit will start showing lines and if one line appears, it means one is HIV negative. If it shows two lines then one will have tested positive and therefore require a follow-up test at a health facility.

In studies, the OraQuick test which was also the first self-testing device to be approved by the World Health Organization has proved to be highly acceptable and effective.

The Makerere University School of Public Health Study, for instance, showed that 7 out of the 10 men involved confessed knowing their status by use of the kit. 

However, according to statistics by the Uganda AIDS Commission, only 55% of men and boys living with HIV know their status, compared to 82% of women and girls.  

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