23 June 2018

Malawi: Government to Scale Up HIV Self-Testing

Photo: New Zimbabwe
HIV Test (file photo).

Lilongwe — In its efforts of taking HIV and Aids testing as part of the fight against the scourge, the Malawi Government through the Ministry of Health intends to roll out self-testing facility for HIV in order to enable many people know their status and seek relevant medical attention.

Ministry of Health Chief Director, Bestone Chisamile, disclosed this to members of the press in Lilongwe on Friday at a press briefing on the Africa Public Service Day.

HIV self-testing initiative is a process whereby a person who wants to know his or her HIV status collects a specimen performs a test and interprets the result by himself.

In his statement on some services that the ministry has rendered to the citizenry and accomplishments made so far, Chisamile said the fight against HIV and AIDS remains a high priority for government hence the introduction of the service.

He said the self-testing initiative is an appropriate approach as it will give everyone an opportunity to conduct the test on his or her own.

"The service will roll out soon. Currently, we are developing communication messages that will direct the operations of the service," he said.

Asked if this will not raise fears for the client should their result be positive, Chisamile said before testing everyone willing to undertake the test will be counseled to prepare them on the outcome of the testing.

Meanwhile government has taken a deliberate measure to put those diagnosed with HIV on ART there and then.

"I'm informing all Malawians that once a person is diagnosed with HIV; there is a policy that they should start ARVs right away. This means that we don't have to wait for that person to have a low CD4 count before they start taking ARVs," he said.

According to Chisamile the large scale-up of free treatment program the ministry has undertaken has resulted in the reduction of new HIV infections by 42 percent between 2003 and 2017. This has also seen the prevention of 40,000 AIDS related deaths and 11,000 infant infections.

In 2007, a total of 4.2 million tests for HIV were done resulting into 147,000 diagnoses.

So far 1.1 million people are estimated to be living with the virus and out of those 746,000 are on ARVs. 90% of those on treatment have their virus suppressed which has significantly reduced the risk that those people may transmit the virus to others.'

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