It’s been almost two years since the South African Pharmacy Council approved the over-the-counter sale of HIV self-testing kits. The kits are now available at pharmacies for between R60 and R160.
South Africa is one of 40 countries that have incorporated self-testing as part of its national HIV testing guidelines, says the World Health Organisation. The body recommended in 2016 that do-it-yourself diagnostics should be offered alongside traditional testing at clinics to help more people know their HIV status. The national health department is expected to have new draft guidance on how self-testing should work in the country by September.
For years, the idea of testing for HIV in the comfort of your own home – and without a counsellor – sparked fears that it might put people who test positive at risk of, for example, suicide. But these fears have not been borne out in studies from Malawi and increasing data from South Africa as organisations like Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and others find new ways to use the DIY test. So far, the lure of added privacy and convenience seems to be doing the trick to get people to self-test…..more