In HIV self-testing, informed choices will matter most

What you need to know:

Since the saying, “An HIV-free generation begins with you,” is still alive, then, I think it’s time for you to make a choice as an individual.

More people are still needed at HIV testing facilities. How to get them there? Researchers and HIV and AIDS stakeholders have been scratching their heads over the years.

Since the saying, “An HIV-free generation begins with you,” is still alive, then, I think it’s time for you to make a choice as an individual.

By doing so, you join Tanzania’s movement in attaining the highly ambitious targets which the country wants to achieve by the year 2020.

The target is about the “90–90–90” ambitious treatment plan to help end HIV and AIDS. It’s indeed ambitious, given the nature of the problem, the required investment and the little time left.

That by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their status; 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART); and 90 percent of all people receiving ART will have the viruses suppressed. This requires major commitment. To arrive at such a target, there are all clear indications that in the months ahead, the country might introduce HIV self-testing, just as Kenya did last year. Alongside this, could be a preventive therapy known as pre-exposure prophylaxis.

HIV self-testing enables people to test themselves discreetly and conveniently. This is important to people who have concerns about the confidentiality of hospital-based testing and those who are not currently reached by existing HIV testing and counseling services.

However, before this moment arrives and such services are in place, there is need to exercise caution. The public must be prepared psychologically. At this point, the government and stakeholders must sensitize communities on the do’s and don’ts that will come with the services.

There are concerns already about how the counseling services may be provided to avert things such as possible suicide cases, depression and other psychological challenges. All this will have to be addressed early and promptly.

I know that the screening is recommended for people who have made up their minds and they really want to know their HIV status but not all might accept the service.

In Kenya, self-testing has been highly accepted, according to some studies.

In the Journal of International AIDS society, a study titled: “Feasibility and acceptability of HIV self-testing among pre-exposure prophylaxis users in Kenya,” shows a 98.2 per cent acceptability among the people who were surveyed in the country.

Many people, according to reports in Kenya, are happy about self-testing it because it’s convenient, easy to use and highly confidential, the study shows.

Let’s get ready for something to come in HIV plans for this country as we strive to make good and informed health choices.