Morenike Folayan

New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society

25th July 2019

Members of Civil Society Organisations working in the 36 +1 States in Nigeria recently made a loud call for the State governments in the country to support public access and use of HIV self-testing kits.

In a communiqué released at the end of a one day training on the policy, guidelines and use of HIV-self testing services, participants welcomed the availability of guidelines and kits for HIV-self testing. They identified the need for extensive public education on the use of the test-kits to address possible concerns, myths and misconceptions about the tool. One of this had to do with the use of the test-kits of HIV positive individuals who are virally suppressed – the test-kits shows a HIV seronegative result for these individuals. There were concerns raised about misconceptions for such results in a clime where there charlatans who proclaim miracle cures for HIV infection. Public education needs to explicitly address the appropriate use of the kit for HIV self-testing, diagnosis and treatment access.

Speaking about the communique released after the meeting, Walter Ugwuocha noted that the constituency he represented which is CISHAN, was extremely enthused by the prospect wide public access to the HIV self-testing kit holds. He stated: wide public access will enhance the opportunity for the country to close the huge HIV testing gap in the country. As we raise towards the global 90-90-90 target by 2020, we can promote the diagnosis of HIV in persons skeptical about testing in public spaces. They can now test in the privacy of their homes and access services when they identify they need treatment.

Participants at the training were concerned about cost of the test kits as this was not to be a deterrent for access by the populations most vulnerable to HIV infection in Nigeria including adolescents.

Florita Durueke, the Program Manager for the New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society also shared her concerns. She notes: my organization have been pushing hard for adolescents access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). This implies that with public awareness about and access to HIV self-testing kits, adolescents will likely buy and self-test for HIV without parental consent. This has implications for adolescents: how do we then facilitate access of adolescents who identify they need HIV treatment or PrEP? Also, how do we start to provide active counselling for persons who self-test and are HIV negative but are eligible to PrEP? We have continued to ask the government to develop a PrEP roadmap for the country. Now, access to HIV self-testing is throwing up more dusts and concerns for me and my organization about the implications for adolescents. We need to concretely address the issue of universal health access and the poor coverage of the national health insurance scheme, age of access for sexual and reproductive health services, and the barriers created with the institution of user fees for HIV treatment access.

HIV self-testing kits will soon be accessible in public spaces including pharmacies and NGO created outlets.