Refrain from continuous self-testing, patients warned

In Africa, HIV testing coverage remains low with up to 54% of adults in the dark over their status.

Health experts have warned people living with HIV to refrain from continuously conducting self-tests after a recent study in South Africa revealed that nine out of 100 positively tested participants returned negative results on at least one different type of test.

In Africa, HIV testing coverage remains low with up to 54% of adults in the dark over their status.

Several health experts in Zimbabwe indicated that people on HIV medication may have a very low number of HIV antibodies, resulting in positively infected persons returning negative results. This suggests that the patient will be strictly applying their treatment medication. Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa told the Zimbabwe Independent that in some cases, positive patients on medication were turning negative as their virus fighting mechanism improved.

“A lot of these tests are antibody tests not antigen tests, which detect antibodies to HIV. They give people false hope and get gratified that you are free from a very serious virus that has the potential to decimate as many people as possible if it is not contained in its early stages,” he said.

“I would advise people to repeat tests after every three months, especially those that suspect or those that have indulged in risky behaviours; they should repeat those tests at least two times, after three months,” Marisa said.

A Public Health Activist, Itai Rusike said HIV self-testing is helpful if it is applied correctly.

“My worry is when a person is nowhere near a clinic, has conducted the test wrongly or is not able to interpret the results and end up committing suicide.

“There is need to consider gender issues, action after tests, availability of the test kits, stigma and discrimination in the community, how to handle counselling issues, the accuracy of the tests and the need for confirmatory tests and where to get it,” Rusike added.

National Aids Council Boys 2 Boys mentor and BCf facilitator, Alexander Gurudza said the self-test kits were widely used by commercial sex workers.

“When self-test kits were introduced, the idea was for people who are always on sex work as daily check-up and my best recommendation is to visit the doctor or clinic after every three months for check-up,” he said.

A survey conducted by the US Embassy in Zimbabwe revealed that the rate of annual new HIV infections among adults in Zimbabwe stood at 0,38% (0,54% among women and 0,20% among men) or approximately 31 000 persons annually.

Related Topics