Could HIV self-testing be a game changer in Africa?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – In Africa, where fewer than half the people know their HIV status, HIV self-testing is being explored as a way of encouraging more individuals, particularly in high risk groups, to know their status as a first step to seeking treatment, an AIDS charity said on Monday.

Despite decades of investment in testing and counselling for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, only about 15 percent of Zambians, 25 percent of South Africans and 39 percent of Swazis had been tested for HIV in 2011, U.N. figuresshow. In Botswana, the rate was higher with 62 percent of the population tested for HIV in 2011.

Experts say one of the main reasons people in sub-Saharan Africa used to give for not getting tested 10 or 15 years ago was the lack of treatment for HIV. But today, drugs that can control the virus for decades are increasingly 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,” said Felicitas Chiganze, chief operating officer of the Southern African AIDS Trust, which works on the response to HIV in six African countries.

The group published legal research on Monday comparing laws and outlining the human rights implications of HIV self-testing in 10 countries: Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe where it works, and the United States, France, Britain and South Africa.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation (link opens in a new window)

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