The UC Irvine GHREAT program joins Nigerian scientists, advocates, and researchers to examine the utility of HIV self-testing in Nigeria in an article titled “HIV self-testing in Nigeria: Public opinions and perspectives”. The article was recently published in Global Public Health (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17441692.2014.947303#.VAm7ULJ0zIU).
Despite increased uptake of HIV testing and counseling over the past decade, many individuals at high risk still do not know their status. At home HIV self-testing was first considered nearly 20 years ago as an option to help increase HIV testing uptake outside of clinic settings and to capture otherwise undiagnosed HIV cases in a confidential manner. It is not new to the African continent, as HIV self-testing was included in national policy in Kenya and Zambia, and South Africa is considering putting it in their policy.
In our study, we conducted a survey to obtain perspectives of the informed Nigerian public on the use of at home HIV testing. The majority of participants (54.8%) supported the introduction of HIV self-testing. Support for the introduction of HIV self-testing into Nigeria was largely focused on increasing the number of people who would undergo HIV testing since the self-test would help avoid stigmatization that may arise from the use of health facilities. Respondents also identified conditions which should be met to facilitate the introduction of at-home HIV testing, including counseling and government regulation. There were several concerns raised about the introduction of HIV self-testing into Nigeria. This varied from the invaluable role of pre-test counselling, potential for negative consequences that could result from a positive HIV test result, and the potential for using self-testing as a tool for coercion.
The current opinion poll suggests mix opinions about the use of self-test kit in Nigeria. Despite this, there is an agreement about the need to put in place stringent regulations for importation of the kits and a need for media campaigns and education about its use. Having access to at-home HIV test kits will empower individuals to take action in their own health decision making.
Photo: 2011 World AIDS day celebration in Nigeria with HIV testing offered to the public