By Catherine Murombedzi
Many people in Zimbabwe are scared to know their HIV status. Status awareness appears to have increased as results from a national survey showed that the percentage of people ever tested for HIV increased from 36 percent in 2007 at baseline to 50 percent in 2009.
There were also significant increases in couple counselling from 12 percent in 2007 to 25 percent in 2009, according to the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare Aids and TB Unit.
“Too many people living with HIV are unaware of their HIV status: approximately three in five of the estimated 1 million adults living with HIV are unaware of their status, placing them at greater risk for spreading the virus to others,” said the report in the ZNASP II.
In Zimbabwe an HIV test is done using a blood sample. Some people have phobia for needles but generally some people do not like the process where one has to present to a health facility or a New Start Centre to have an HIV test.
HIV is still surrounded with stigma and all health care facilities have moved a gear up and offer the service even to someone escorting a sick relative. This is provider initiated counselling and testing even when one is not ill.
There are many people who fear that taking an HIV test may be used against them later as a criminal offence for deliberately infecting someone so for these they would rather not know their status.
Recent data suggests early ARV treatment for HIV+ patients may bring new infections down as a person on ART is less likely to pass the virus to a partner as compared to someone not on medication. In developed countries they now use oral mouth fluid to test for HIV.
Ora Quick uses fluid samples over blood samples. The method has been proved to be 99 percent accurate and gives results in 20 minutes. A person can use this in a non-hospital setting too. According to WHO, HIV and Aids Surveillance in Europe in 2008 2,2 million Europeans were infected with HIV and 1 in 3 did not know it.
The study pointed out that uninformed people caused the majority of new HIV infections. “As many as 70 percent of these uninformed people cause new infections,” the study reported.
This method, which is user friendly, reduced barriers to identify the undiagnosed HIV positive patients. In a survey they carried out they found out that 3 out of 4 people preferred oral fluid testing over whole blood. The oral fluid test is both suitable for hospital and non-hospital setting.
The Ora Quick test device was on display at one of the stands at the recently ended XIX Aids Conference in Washington DC. The Herald