Health experts have urged Zimbabweans to embrace HIV saliva tests, saying they are just as effective as the traditional blood tests.
By Phyllis Mbanje
Population Services International director for social franchising Stephano Gudukeya said the oral fluid test detects HIV antibodies the same way as the normal blood tests.
This was contrary to some public concerns that the self-test which involves saliva would not be as accurate as a blood test.
“The test uses oral fluid to check for antibodies that are specific only to HIV and it is just as effective as a blood test,” explained Gudukeya.
He said taking another test after the oral one was not peculiar as it was standard even for the blood tests.
“It is a screening test and would need to be confirmed just like a blood test,” Gudukeya said.
Following the announcement by the government that they were rolling out an HIV self-test trial this month, many people were sceptical of the initiative which is aimed at encouraging more people to be tested.
“The aim of the pilot project, which will be rolled out in parts of Harare and Shamva, is to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the test,” Health ministry HIV testing and counselling co-ordinator Getrude Ncube said.
Speaking during a Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights media forum, Ncube said issues to do with counselling, which is critical to HIV testing, would be looked into.
“We would need to establish links to supportive services regardless of the test result,” she said.
The OraQuick (OraSure) HIV test kit will be used.
It consists of a test stick (device) to collect the specimen, a test tube (vial) to insert the test stick (device) and complete the test, testing directions, two information booklets and a disposal bag.
“The kit is designed to allow you to take the HIV test in the comfort of your house,” said Ncube.
Explaining how the test is done, she said one was required to take an oral fluid sample by swabbing the upper and lower gums with the test device.
“The device is then inserted into the kit’s vial which contains a developer solution. After 20-40 minutes, the test result will be ready,” she said.
The $23 million self-testing research pilot project being funded by Unitaid, a global health initiative to diagnose and prevent Aids, is aimed at reaching
375 000 people in the next two years.
Three other countries — South Africa, Malawi and Zambia — will also initiate a similar exercise.