The Minister for Health, Hon. Kwaku Agyemang Manu, has unveiled the HIV Self-Testing Kit to support the nation’s efforts in increasing HIV testing and linking individuals to antiretroviral therapy. This initiative aims to achieve the UNAIDS 95-95-95 target by the end of 2025.
In a keynote address at the National Launch of the HIV Self-Testing in Accra, Hon. Agyemang Manu mentioned that the availability of the kit is a step forward in the quest to create a healthier nation. The health minister remarked that by adopting the self-test kit, the health sector is bridging the gap in testing coverage among hard-to-reach populations. He added that HIV self-testing is one of the newest innovations in the range of strategies aimed at encouraging persons to know their status and to help address the challenge of delayed treatment of persons living with HIV due to lack of knowledge.
Mr. Agyemang Manu advised that the self-testing should not be seen as an end but rather as an opportunity to create a society that supports and cares for HIV-positive persons. He pledged the ministry’s support to engage its key stakeholders to ensure the availability of stock, medicines, and logistics in their effort to combat HIV/AIDS. He urged Ghanaians to take advantage of the innovation to get tested to know their status to protect themselves and their loved ones.
In a speech read on behalf of the Director-General of the Service, Dr. Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the Director of Public Health Division, Dr. Franklin Aseidu- Bekoe noted that self-testing has been proven globally to improve the uptake of HIV testing and its eventual treatment. The Director advocated for an estimated 28% of persons living with HIV to be linked to anti-retroviral therapy and other complimentary screening services. He entreated everyone to embrace the innovation to help bring healthcare services closer.
Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, the Program Manager for the National AIDS/STI Control Program noted that the self-testing is a triage test to complement the routine test by the trained service provider. He added that because of the stigma attached to the sickness, a reactive or positive result after self-testing must be confirmed by the routine algorithm using three different tests in series before one can be declared HIV positive. Dr. Ayisi Addo stated that HIV screening is the first step to treatment, hence separate HIV testing is a crucial intervention expected to improve access to HIV screening services. He further stated that permanent operationalized teleconsulting services have been instituted with two counselors who provide services to both positive and negative clients. The Program Manager revealed that due to the need to expand opportunities, other HIV self-test kits will be introduced which will involve the use of blood to get the results needed. He called on all to embrace the initiative to achieve the 95-95-95 goals of the UNAIDS.
The 95-95-95 is goal set by the UNAIDS in 2020 calling for 95% of all people living with HIV to know their status, 95% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 95% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy to have viral suppression by 2025.
SOURCE: PR Unit, GHS