Globally, it is estimated that only 70% of people living with HIV know their HIV status. In Uganda, that figure stands at 73%
Health agencies in Uganda are set to promote HIV self-testing in a bid to increase access to and use of HIV testing services, especially for populations with low service coverage and at higher risk.
HIV self-testing is a process in which a person who wants to know their HIV status performs an HIV test themselves and interprets the result in private.
It is generally conducted using rapid test kits, such as finger-stick tests (on whole blood) or mouth swab tests (on oral-fluid).
The acting director general of the Uganda AIDS Commission, Dr Nelson Musoba revealed on Tuesday that initial studies on the benefits of self-testing had shown promising results in the fight against HIV.
Musoba rejected calls from sections of the international community advocating for compulsory HIV testing to tame check new infections, instead voicing support for self-testing.
“What we see is that compulsory HIV testing has no added benefit to our interventions. Instead, it may drive away people from going for test,” he explained.
According to Musoba, self-testing has potential to raise awareness about HIV and significantly extend testing services to people who would otherwise not carry out a screening test at a health facility.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been encouraging countries to embrace self-testing as the race heats up to meet the global target to diagnose 90% of all people living with HIV by 2020.
Globally, it is estimated that only 70% of people living with HIV know their HIV status. In Uganda, that figure stands at 73%, according to the Uganda AIDS Commission.
In 2005, it was estimated that only 10% of people with HIV in Africa were aware of their HIV status and that, globally, only 12% of people who wanted to test for HIV were able to.
By 2015, it was estimated that 55% of all people with HIV in Africa and 60% of people with HIV globally knew their status, partly as a result of availability of low-cost rapid diagnostic test kits.
In 2016, WHO published the first global recommendations and guidelines for HIV self-testing to guide managers, health workers and other players seeking to achieve national and international HIV goals.
On December 1, Uganda will join the rest of the world to commemorate World AIDS Day, marked every year globally since 1988 to raise awareness about the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV.
According to the World AIDS Report 2017, 36.7 million people globally are living with HIV and 20.9 million of them are on treatment.
In 2016, 1.8 million contracted HIV and the infection caused one million deaths. Since it was uncovered, 76 million people have been infected and about half (35 million have died from it).
HIV still ravages more women compared to men, who are reluctant to go for testing. Current HIV campaigns are targeting to increase coverage for men going for HIV testing.