18 April 2018

Malawi: PSI to Scale Up HIV Self-Testing Africa Project in Blantyre

Blantyre — Population Services International (PSI) Malawi intends to scale up its HIV Self Testing Africa (STAR) project in Blantyre District by among others increasing the number of HIV self-testing kits.

The STAR project promotes self-testing of people with limited access to current HIV testing services and accords the individuals with privacy. It also encourages re-testing among those at high risk.

Speaking with Malawi News Agency (Mana) on Monday, Ian Khruza STAR Project Coordinator said the distribution of HIVST kits will be done in the informal sectors as well as urban slums of Blantyre.

Khruza said Blantyre urban has HIV prevalence rate of 18.5 percent which therefore calls for combined efforts if this is to be improved.

"In the project, we will be targeting the youth (15-24years) and adult men and other highly vulnerable groups in the urban slums and informal workplaces.

"We will also target partners of women who frequently test at the clinics and that way reduce transmission of HIV," explained Krauza.

He said PSI will use the peers of the targeted groups to distribute the kits.

"We have no specific number of people to target but we would like to reach out to as many people as possible," he revealed.

Penjani Chunda, District Health and Environmental Officer (DEHO) for Blantyre said the distribution of the self-testing kits will enable many people in the district to know their HIV status and seek relevant medical attention.

Chunda said many Malawians are reluctant to go to HIV testing centers because they are afraid of knowing the results of their status and also because of shame.

He then described the self-testing kits as the appropriate approach as it will give everyone an opportunity to conduct the test on his or her own.

"This is the best approach and through the project, we expect to reach out to as many people as possible and at the same time improve on the HIV prevalence," explained Chunda.

As of February 2018, PSI has managed to distribute 2,264 test kits.

Apart from the informal sector, the project will also target uniformed professionals and truck drivers.

The Self Testing Africa initiative project was launched on November 30th, 2015 at the 18th International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (ICASA).

It is believed that, if well implemented, the project would greatly contribute to the global effort of achieving UNAIDS's 90/90/90 treatment targets set for 2020.

Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia are the three countries in Africa benefiting from the project.

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