PSU introduces HIV Self-Testing Kits to students
According to PSI’s Demand Creation Coordinator, Brian Satha the aim is to provide HIV testing kits to individuals, in this case students, with limited time and no access to HIV testing facilities.
“HIV self-testing also has the capability to reach populations with barriers to the conventional HIV testing, such as; distance to health facilities, confidentiality of results and health provider attitude,” Satha explained.
Satha further explained that the overall goal is to compliment to the national HIV response in which young people and men have been identified as the groups with HIV testing gap, hence the selection of the Polytechnic institution.
“For every individual accessing HIVST, we provide pretest information. This is a condensed package that includes; what to observe before using the kit, what to do to get correct results, how to perform the test and interpret results and lastly what to do with results. A demonstration on how to use the kit is also provided,” Satha added.
According to the Director of Health and Sanitation of the PSU, Innocent Mndala, Malawi is one of the countries that have adopted the 90-90-90 campaign which emphasize that 90% of the population should know their HIV status. This may encourage those that are diagnosed reactive to embark on ART treatment in order to initiate viral suppression.
“This exercise was done as a way of helping the country in achieving the 90-90-90 campaign. It is hard to achieve this campaign if the country does not have enough health facilities for HIV testing and also for the fear of lack of privacy,” Mndala Said.
Mndala added that there has been positive response from the students because it is simple and straight forward to test themselves since it just requires saliva as the testing fluid.
Concurring with Mndala, a Bachelor of Science Industrial Laboratory Technology student Rueben Banda explained that many students do not take the initiative to go for HIV testing. Therefore the introduction of the Self-testing Kit on campus has increased the number of volunteers because of its nature and accessibility.
“This exercise is relevant to us in the sense that students need to know their HIV status in order to prevent transmission to others if found positive or start practicing abstinence if found negative,” Banda explained.
Banda further explained that this program is a starting point for the students when planning their future because they are assured of how they can plan their lives.
PSI-Malawi with funding from UNITAID is implementing the HIV Self-Testing Africa (STAR) project which is distributing HIV Self-Test Kits (HIVST) under different distribution channels in Malawi.