10 December 2012

Africa: Home-Based HIV Kits Aid in Scourge Fight

Increasing rates of HIV testing is a top priority for the United Nations, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV prevalence remains highest.

A new analysis published this week in PLoS Medicine shows that an overwhelming majority (83 percent) of patients in Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia who are offered home-based HIV testing and voluntary counseling accept.

Researchers, led by Kalpana Sabapathy of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Imperial College London, and Doctors Without Borders, reviewed 21 studies of home-based HIV testing in Africa, comprising more that 520,000 participants.

Not only did most patients accept HIV testing, Sabapathy's team found that men were as likely to do so as women, despite the fact that, in general, men are less likely to get tested for HIV than women.

Most importantly, Sabapathy's analysis revealed that 40 to 70 percent of those who tested positive for HIV using at-home tests were previously undiagnosed.

In the absence of home-based testing, these patients may have gone on to spread the disease to others, and may not have had access to HIV treatment until their condition worsened.

The beauty of home-based testing is that it does not require participants to seek testing and treatment, which could subject them to stigmatization in their communities.

The more people who are aware of their HIV status, the greater the opportunity for patients to begin treatment early and to help stem the spread of the disease.

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