WITH the introduction and availability of the HIV self-test many more sexually active individuals can test themselves at home and know their status in a matter of 20 minutes.
This is quite handy as HIV can take up to three months from the last unprotected sex act to give a positive test result. It is, therefore, recommended that a follow-up test be done in three months.
Accessible from select pharmacies, the HIV self-test kit does not involve using needles as this more friendly format instead necessitates the swabbing of the upper and lower gum lines with a swab stick.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW), along with the National Family Planning Board, introduced the HIV self-test kits in early 2021. They had outlined that the objectives were:
• To increase access to HIV testing
• To increase the number of persons who are aware of their HIV status
• To increase SRH knowledge in regards to HIV self-testing
• To increase partner testing.
With the increased attention to HIV self-testing the expectation is that there will be further growth from the 2017 statistic of 12.8 per cent having knowledge of the HIV test. Making the test available to the public is with a view to increasing early diagnosis for HIV, resulting in timely linkage to care and treatment.
Furthermore, the global body UNAIDS has challenged Jamaica to have 90 per cent of all people living with HIV know their status; have 90 per cent of all people diagnosed with HIV infection receiving sustained antiretroviral (ARV) treatment; and to have 90 per cent of all people on antiretroviral treatment attaining viral suppression (90-90-90).
The MoHW statistics reveal that as at June 2021 an estimated 32,000 people were living with HIV (PLHIV) of whom 27,605 PLHIV were diagnosed (or 86.3 per cent). Forty-five per cent of all PLHIV were receiving care and 30 per cent of all PLHIV were virally suppressed.
Through the partnership with the pharmacies to increase availability of the test kit, the local health programme can realise the first of the 90-90-90 targets.
Meanwhile, acceptors of the test kit must remember not to drink eat or drink anything 30 minutes before doing the test. In addition, it is important to also to remove and hold the test tube upright; pop the top of the test tube off, being careful not to spill the contents, because if you do you cannot use the test kit.
The HIV test isn't something to be feared. Do one today.
Dianne Thomas is director of communications and public relations at the National Family Planning Board (NFPB). Contact the NFPB at 876-968-1629-33, 968-1636 or reach out to the Marge Roper Counselling Services at 876-968-1619.