NASCOP piloting a vending machine for HIV self-test kits
Getting an HIV test could now be as simple as getting a packet of chips or a soft drink, this comes after the government introduced test kit vending machines as part of a pilot progamme to reduce transmission especially among men.
According to the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP), the lead government body mandated to fight HIV infection, the main deterrent for testing among men is the fear of a positive test result and the ensuing worries such as the associations of HIV with sexual promiscuity.
As a result, men often “test by proxy”, inferring their own HIV status from wives’ HIV test results.
The government has been making strides to reduce the transmission of HIV by ensuring more people know their status, however, testing remains low among men, but NASCOP is now looking for innovative ways to push men to test for HIV at least from the comfort of their homes.
The goal is to reach those who may be reluctant to go to a clinic for a test because of the stigma of contracting HIV.
Just like chips or soft drink, men in Kenya now have the option of also grabbing an HIV test kit to go from a vending machine.
Farmers Choice in Kahawa has a workforce of about 1700 men, which will serve as the first pilot site for an innovation that dispenses HIV self-test kit to its workers who are mainly men.
It’s placed strategically at the entrance of the dining center with an aim of having anyone willing to self-test do so in privacy.
The machine holds up to 22 oral self-test kit, one of it’s kind here in the country and in Africa as a whole. It has to operate on a power source and also within an internet-accessible area.
“More than half of Farmers Choice employees are male, in the past we have organised VCT camps we have many people coming in but the percentage of male is low compared to that of female that’s why we decided to have this pilot project here to reach out to men,” says Ann Kinyanjui.
It’s a touch screen, answers a couple of questions and it spits out a test, it’s that easy. And after 20 minutes of waiting patiently, the results appear on the screen on the kit, one line at the letter C meaning you are negative while two lines appearing on the screen at both letter C and T meaning positive.
According to NASCOP, if the uptake at Farmers Choice is good then the concept will be rolled out to other parts of the country.
NASCOP’s Roselyn Warutere says the number of HIV infections among women is generally higher than that of men but stresses that this is due to the low turnout of men at VCTs.
“The prevalence now stands at 4.9%, this means that we need to bring up testing, identification of the positives because men have very poor way of seeking health services and so we need to bring them on board,” says Ms. Warutere.
According to a NASCOP study, about 1.5 million people in Kenya are living with HIV/AIDS, 41,416 new HIV infections occurring in Kenya every year. Meaning that 114 people are infected every day and 5 people every hour.
20,997 people lose their lives in Kenya every year due to HIV and AIDS; this translates to 404 AIDS deaths every week and about 58 in a day, the main sources of these new infections is unsafe sexual practices and the mother to child transmission of HIV.
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