SA students prefer to self-test for HIV

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South African students, who make up one of the highest sexually active groups in society, would rather self-test at home for HIV than go to a health facility.

The Times reports that this is according to research, conducted by the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Pretoria, which surveyed more than 3,500 students from 13 colleges in Gauteng and North West.

The study showed that 75% of the students were willing to do HIV self-testing. The majority would do so with their partners and three-quarters said they would confirm the results at a health facility.

“In terms of counselling telephone hotlines were acceptable to only 39.9%, and less than half felt that test-kit leaflets would provide sufficient information to self-test,” the study said.

Although HIV self-testing has not yet been rolled out at public health centres, pharmacies are now legally allowed to sell the tests.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Joe Maila is quoted in the report as saying that the tests should be called “self-screening”, because the kit was used for screening and results needed to be confirmed. “It’s not available in the public sector as we are awaiting the World Health Organisation to pre-qualify the kits for quality assurance purposes,” Maila said.

Mary-Jane Matsolo from the Treatment Action Campaign said in the report that there were a number of concerns around the self-testing kits, including access to counselling and administering the test itself. “When you test for HIV you need to have a certain level of counselling. It is a worry that there would be no control of whether a person taking the test has had counselling,” Matsolo said.

“There is still a huge stigma around HIV and Aids so if someone does test positive it’s not as easy for that person to reach out. We have found most likely a person would rather commit suicide or get into a deep depression.”

The report says Matsolo was also concerned about the actual test. “As far as I know this test kit comes with other variables and solutions that need to be added on after self-pricking, and there is no way of knowing if people are doing it properly.”

The Times report

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