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Friday, March 1, 2024

Over 100 HIV positive cases recorded through self-testing so far

Over 100 HIV positive cases have so far been recorded since the distribution of self-testing kits in July 2023, Dr. Stephen Ayisi Addo, Programme Manager, National Aids Control Programme (NACP), has told the Ghana News Agency (GNA).

He said “as we speak, patronage has been massive and we have more than a hundred thousand to two hundred thousand people subscribing to the test and quite a number of people are positive out of the self-test”.

“We are now collating data from our constituencies….we have picked not less than hundred positive cases, who would have been missed if the self-test kits were not available,” he added.

He said though some persons who tested positive had been linked to care and were on antiretroviral therapy, a few of them were still in denial.

The HIV Self-Testing initiative is one of the newest innovations and strategies by the NACP and stakeholders to support the nation’s efforts in increasing HIV testing and linking individuals to antiretroviral therapy.

It is also an initiative to encourage persons to know their status and to help address the challenge of delayed treatment of persons living with HIV due to lack of knowledge and to achieve the UNAIDS 95-95-95 target by the end of 2025.

The 95-95-95 goal was set by the UNAIDS in 2020 calling for 95 per cent of all people living with HIV to know their status, 95 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 95 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy to have viral suppression by 2025.

At the National Launch of the HIV Self-Testing in Accra, Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, the Health Minister, said the availability of the kit was an effort in the quest to create a healthier nation, while bridging the gap in testing coverage among hard-to-reach populations.

He said: “The initiative is receiving massive response and we are happy because it is achieving two things, bringing people into care who otherwise will not have come to the facility for testing as well as linking people to HIV care services for (pre-exposure prophylaxis).

The Programme Manager said the NACP would continue to highlight the blood based aspect of the self-testing and plan to increase advocacy and demand next year, to help achieve the first 95.

He expressed worry that about 80 per cent of the people who had accepted to do self-testing had never tested, which was not good

Dr Ayisi Addo said though the initiative had been positive, there were few challenges, saying “you will find people who are already on treatment also testing because they want to be sure that, the prayer camps thy have been going to has yielded positive results. Another challenge is that people are in a state of denial and not everybody who had tested is willing to tell us the result.”

Dr Ayisi Addo said stigmatisation was still a major setback, as the situation was preventing people from testing and knowing their status while those who had already tested positive were unwilling to seek treatment, a situation which was fueling new infections among the public.

He advised the public to desist from stigma and support persons living with HIV to come up boldly for treatment and prevent exposure and deaths.

He also encouraged everyone to take advantage of the initiative, currently free to know their status for immediate care and support.

“At this day and age no one should die from HIV because there is treatment, let us all create an enabling environment to support one another,” Dr Ayisi Addo said.

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