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Easy access to HIV self-testing kits reduces prevalence, says expert

Experts seek sustained investments in HIV/AIDS response amid COVID-19 pandemic

Easy access to self-testing kits could reduce HIV prevalence in Nigeria, Munir Elelu, programme director, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) Foundation, has said.

He made the assertion during a one-day Orientation of Community Pharmacists on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis of HIV (PrEP) and HIV Self-Testing in Nigeria held in Kaduna, Monday.

“HIV Self-Testing (HIVST) is a process whereby an individual collects his or her specimen, performs a test and interprets the results, often in a private setting either alone or with someone he or she trust,” Elelu explained.

At the one-day orientation programme, Elelu explained that the programme is to increase access to HIV self-testing kits, adding that the programme is in line with the United Nations’ AIDS programme goal to ensure that 95 percent of the population know their HIV status and should also be able to access healthcare.

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“That’s why we are alerting community pharmacists to be on the lookout and be part of this UN goal of reducing HIV prevalence in the country.

“This goal is universal, and we feel that in our community the first point of call for most people seeking healthcare is the community pharmacists. That is why we are orientating our community pharmacists to know how to increase access to these HIV self-testing kits,” he said.

Ijeoma Nwankwo, PSN programme officer, also explained that HIV self-testing can be administered by anyone in the privacy of one’s room or anywhere. And by the time he knows his status, should be able to easily access free healthcare.

She said Nigeria has one of the largest HIV burdens in the world with an estimated 1.9 million people living with HIV as at 2018.

“In 2018, about 67 percent of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) knew their HIV status in Nigeria. The operational guidelines for the delivery of HIV self-testing in Nigeria were disseminated in December 2018,” she said.