Ghana will roll out HIV Self-Testing (HIVST) equipment on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.
The initiative seeks to make it easier and more convenient for people to get tested for HIV.
The National Planning Committee (NPC) coordinates it in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
A statement issued ahead of the launch jointly by the Ghana Health Service, the Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET), and The Global Fund, and signed by Lead Coordinator Ernest Amoabeng Ortsin, said two organisations – SH:24 (a UK-based online sexual and reproductive health service organisation) and Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET) – were commissioned by the Ghana Health Service (through the National AIDS Control Programme) to undertake a pilot of HIVST in the country.
It said while SH:24 used a virtual platform and courier service to distribute the HIVST kits in Accra, mainly, GHANET undertook community-based distribution in 50 districts across the country, with preliminary results from the pilot showing that, contrary to initial concerns, HIVST is seen by many Ghanaians as a very convenient way of testing to know one’s status.
“Already, some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa including South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Nigeria, Senegal, Cote d’lvoire, Cameroun, among others, have rolled out HIVST initiatives.
“The outcomes, so far, indicate that HIVST is a widely accepted method of HIV testing, especially in relation to hard-to-reach populations. Owing to the absolute privacy and confidentiality associated with HIVST, it is fast growing in popularity and attracting many first-time-testers,” the statement said.
The ceremony is planned to take place at the Omanye Aba Hall of the Aoora Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) on Wednesday, July 1 9, 2023 at 9 am.
Participants invited to grace the occasion themed “Test Yourself: Know Your Status” include Members of Parliament, Traditional Leaders, Religious Leaders, Development Partners, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the Media.
According to the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) there are more than 350,000 persons living with HIV. However, only about 71% of them are aware of their status.
The remaining 29%, consequently, pose a major concern as they may, unknowingly, be spreading the virus.
One of the major obstacles that impede HIV testing is fear (occasioned by the high levels of stigmatization towards persons who test positive for HIV), the Commission said.
For this reason, it is sometimes difficult for individuals to voluntarily walk into health facilities to get tested. Also, due to stigmatization, some individuals refuse to go on treatment when they are diagnosed with HIV.
”It is therefore unsurprising that, on the average, more than 10,000 Ghanaians die every year, with complications linked to HIV and AIDS. Presently, some publio health experts have cautioned that, given the trend of surges in new HIV infections, the country risks not achieving the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets by 2030.”
The Commission said the initiative would help address the challenge since some experts have described it as a potential game changer in scaling up HIV testing services.