HIV self-testing to be officially launched in GhanaJuly 12, 2023 2023-07-12 10:46
HIV self-testing to be officially launched in Ghana
Ghana will on Wednesday, July 19, 2023 join a growing list of countries in the sub-region who have rolled out the HIV Self-Testing (HIVST) equipment.
Preparations are already underway by a national planning committee for the official launch of HIVST, one of the newest innovations in the range of strategies aimed at encouraging persons to know their HIV status by the Minister for Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu.
The ceremony which is planned to take place at the Omanye Aba Hall of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) is on the theme, “Test Yourself: Know Your Status”.
Participants at the launch are expected to include members of parliament, traditional and religious leaders, development partners, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the media.
A statement issued ahead of the launch jointly by the Ghana Health Service, the Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET), and The Global Fund, and signed by Lead Coordinator Ernest Amoabeng Ortsin, said two organisations – SH:24 (a UK-based online sexual and reproductive health service organisation) and Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET) – were commissioned by the Ghana Health Service (through the National AIDS Control Programme) to undertake a pilot of HIVST in the country.
It said while SH:24 used a virtual platform and courier service to distribute the HIVST kits in Accra, mainly, GHANET undertook community-based distribution in 50 districts across the country, with preliminary results from the pilot showing that, contrary to initial concerns, HIVST is seen by many Ghanaians as a very convenient way of testing to know one’s status.
“Already, some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa including South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Nigeria, Senegal, Cote d’lvoire, Cameroun, among others, have rolled out HIVST initiatives.
“The outcomes, so far, indicate that HIVST is a widely accepted method of HIV testing, especially in relation to hard-to-reach populations. Owing to the absolute privacy and confidentiality associated with HIVST, it is fast growing in popularity and attracting many first-time-testers,” the statement said.
Around the world, it is estimated that only about 70 percent of persons living with HIV (PLHIV) are aware of their status. This has become a major hindrance in the global strategy towards ending AIDS by 2030.
In Ghana, for example, the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) reports that there are more than 350,000 persons living with HIV. However, only about 71 % of them are aware of their status.
The remaining 29%, consequently, pose a major concern as they may, unknowingly, be spreading the virus.
One of the major obstacles that impede HIV testing is fear (occasioned by the high levels of stigmatisation towards persons who test positive for HIV), for which reason it is sometimes difficult for individuals to voluntarily walk into health facilities to get tested, said the statement.
“Also, due to stigmatization, some individuals refuse to go on treatment when they are diagnosed with HIV. It is therefore unsurprising that, on the average, more than 10,000 Ghanaians die every year, with complications linked to HIV and AIDS.
“Presently, some public health experts have cautioned that, given the trend of surges in new HIV infections, the country risks not achieving the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets by 2030.
“The introduction of HIVST has been welcomed by experts as a potential gamechanger in scaling up HIV testing services. In some ways, HIVST is similar to how a malaria or pregnancy test can be done at home and the results known within minutes.
“With oral HIVST (for instance using OraQuick), it involves the swabbing of the upper and lower gums with an oral swab test stick and dipping the stick in a test tube solution and waiting for 20 minutes to read the results.
“If a single line appears on the test stick, it shows that the result is negative. If two lines appear, however, it shows that the result is reactive, subject to a confirmatory test in a health facility.
“As a precondition, users are not supposed to eat, drink or use oral care products (such as mouthwash or toothpaste) 30 minutes before taking the test.”