22 May 2019

Cameroon: 'We Want to Empower Individuals Against HIV'

interview

Prof Francois-Xavier MbopiKéou, Chair, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Microbiology, Hematology and Infectious Diseases, University of Yaounde I.

You have just launched the HIV-Self testing formula in Cameroon. What is it all about?

It is time we empower the young generation. Many people do not go for HIV screening for many reasons. The pandemic is growing in Africa and people do not go for screening, nor have the knowledge about HIV transmission dynamics. As such, many people are not screened for HIV. This is why there is a high rate of HIV in many areas in the country. To curb the spread of HIV, we have to understand the behavioural parameters linked to testing or the fact of not willing to go for testing. Some people especially those in the rural areas do not even have access to testing and others do not want to have access to testing because of stigmatization. The HIVself testing formula "Exacto" (BIOSYNEX, Strasbourg, France) permits any individual to acquire the kit, go wherever he/she wants to go and carryout the screening.. This will permit people know exactly how to use it.

How does it work?

The Exacto Pro HIV-Self testing can be performed using a whole blood (from veniputure or finger stick), serum or plasma. Disinfect the tip of the selected finger (middle or ring finger). Apply the lancet on the disinfected area and trigger to puncture the skin. Gently rub the hand from the wrist to palm to finger in a bid to create a blood drop over the puncture sit. Collect the blood drop with the bottom of the inverted cup which will be filled with 5pl of blood. If you are tested positive or negative, you can go to any health centre for further counselling. There are many formulas for the HIV-Self testing. We have for individuals, couples willing to get married and professional ones in a box of about 10 to 20 kits. We are trying to get the HIV screening closer to the people. I would very much like to remind you that we are the pioneer mobile HIV screening in Cameroon. We started more than a decade ago. This is an additional means to curb HIV. It is like the pregnancy kit. In any pharmacy in Europe, one can have access to the HIV-Self testing formula. We believe that such a technology can be brought to Africa, closer to the people.

How can someone acquire the HIV-Self testing formula?

The representative of the Biosynex Company based in Strasbourg, France is filling administrative papers to get registered in Cameroon. I understand from Mr Vincent Noah, Biosynex representative in Cameroon, that it will be done by the end of this month, and the kit will be available in pharmacies and health districts. Thereafter, the company will carry out the necessary steps to make the kit known in all the nooks and crannies of the country. The specimen of the "Exacto" test shipped to Cameroon will carry on its packaging, methods of usage in the local languages. I am a member of the UNAIDS Strategic and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) and the HIV-Self Testing formula was launched last year in Amsterdam during a symposium I co-presided with the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, who is currently the Malian Minister of Health and Social Affairs. We want to empower African countries.

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