Uganda: Government Launches Oral HIV Self-Test Kit

27 September 2019

Ministry of Health has launched an oral HIV self-test kit aimed at empowering citizens, especially men to carry out HIV testing.

The initiative is aimed at reducing new HIV/Aids infections by 2020.

The oral HIV test kit dubbed, OraQuick HIV self-test, a product of Orasure technologies, targets young people aged 18 to 24 years, men and priority populations such as sex workers.

"Currently we are targeting young people 18 to 24 years. For the young people that's the age bracket we are looking at but of course any one above 18 and it's because we do not have evidence of children by the Constitution but as more evidence unfolds we are going to get there. For the men, we give the kit to the mother and they take it to the partner, key and priority populations such sex workers," Mr Geoffrey Tasi, the technical officer-in-charge of HIV testing services, said yesterday.

Easy use

Initially, the self-test kits available involve the use of blood to detect the HIV, however, with oral HIV self-test kit, oral fluids are involved.

The test works by detecting antibodies, the body's natural defenders against infection. If one is infected with HIV, these antibodies will be present in your blood and also in the salivia. The test will detect the antibodies in the mouth.

Data by the Uganda Aids Commission (UAC) shows that Uganda is registering 1,000 new HIV/Aids infections and 500 deaths from the viral disease per week, translating into 53,000 new infections and 23,000 deaths annually.

Dr Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, said this is timely and will enhance the fight against HIV/Aids.

She, however, urged the men to take HIV testing as an important issue.

She added that there is still effort to reach the 14 per cent of the people, who are living with HIV but do not know their HIV status.

"Currently, 86 per cent people living with HIV know their status; that means it leave us with 14 per cent of those living with HIV and do not know their status. So how do we now utilise that additional innovation. Really for me this is it ... how do we now move from this kit and create demand, especially for that 14 per cent that are sick and they need care and they are not getting care," Dr Atwine said.

However, health officials warn one should not eat or drink within 15 minutes before starting the test.

Mr Tasi said studies conducted showed no suicide cases and the ministry is confident that the potential of harm can be avoided because the test is voluntary.

Dr Atwine said apart from graphics and videos provided to educate the users, there should be toll free numbers always available to offer counselling in both government and private facilities, including all pharmacies.

Research. According to the research, OraQuick HIV self-test detected more than 99 per cent of people, who were infected with HIV and people, who were not infected with HIV.

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