Nigerians will soon have more access to HIV self-test kits, which will allow them know their HIV status from the comfort of their homes, the minister of health, Isaac Adewole, has said.
The minister said this while receiving the Amethyst HIV 1 and 2 self-test kits, and 10 ‘Anti-body based HIV rapid Test Kits 2016 evaluation reports’ at the ministry of health secretariat in Abuja on Tuesday.
The minister said the government is trying to encourage more people to get tested and know their HIV status so as to reduce the prevalence rate in the country.
The report he received is the laboratory performance evaluation of the HIV rapid test kits.
Mr. Adewole said it is important to get as much people as possible tested and to know their status as HIV is no longer a death sentence, since there was the availability of ‘potent anti-retrovals.’
“HIV is now regarded as a chronic aliment just like TB and diabetes. No one should be ashamed (of test) and with medication we believe that when 80 per cent of HIV patients are on treatment, we can suppress the transmission of HIV”, he said.
Eight new self-test kits out of 10 that were subjected to laboratory evaluation scaled through sensitive and specificity test.
These eight are: Unigold, Determine and HIV Quick check, (which are recommended as first line kits), Diaquick, First Response, Care start, HIV status and Multisure, (for second line confirmation).
Mr. Adewole explained that at least 5.9 million Nigerians are infected with HIV adding that, ”globally there is an estimate of 14 million people, who are HIV positive and do not know their status.”
He said to be able to determine their status they need to have access to a good test kit which will give them the needed privacy and confidentiality.
“That is the new advancement that we are trying to push in the medical world, where you can test yourself without getting to the hospital, where you are able to do your blood test, test your blood sugar, check your blood pressure, test if you have genital infection, do mouth test for DNA etc.
“Medical world is becoming a situation whereby you are now n control of those tests and don’t have to go the facility because many people are too busy and that is the excuse many give for not going for test.
“This is a situation where you can sit in the comfort of your house and pierce yourself and take a self-test which gives confidence that it will surely be accurate”, he said.
Mr. Adewole explained that this method takes away influences of service providers, removes bias and added that there is no stigmatisation attached.
“What is important is that we want to ensure that 90 per cent of Nigerians, who are not yet tested, get tested and the 90 per cent of those positive should be placed on anti- retroviral immediately, and 90 per cent of those on treatment are virally suppressed so that the level of virus in the system will go down and they will not be able to infect their partners or any others person.”
The head of the evaluation team, Mananson Rabianu, said the main reason for the evaluation is to enable Nigerians have options to choose in standard oral test kits for HIV tests.
Mr. Rabianu said the procedure used in the evaluation of the oral test kits were standard, stringent and in-depth.
”We also followed the WHO guidelines on kit testing before arriving at a result. 1,500 people were used for the evaluation from the six geopolitical zones in the country and the oral kit recommended gave a sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of 93.9 per cent, 92. 8 percent and 93.3 per cent respectively”, he explained.
“HIV test in Nigeria is commonly done using the ELISA for screening and Western Blot for confirmation. But this new addition will change that.”
Mr. Rabianu also said the kits are not for diagnostic use and that no matter the result, the person should still go to the hospital for confirmation.
Samuel Ohiri, the CEO, HI-TECH Diagnostics Ltd, manufacturers of the HIV test kits, commended the government on its efforts to make HIV test kits available to many Nigerians and also break the monopoly around the business to ”allow new players.”
He urged the government to implement the result of the report so as to allow the manufacturers have opportunities to market their products in the country.