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Ghana to Launch New HIV Self-Testing Program: Making HIV testing easier and more convenient

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Ghana is preparing to launch a groundbreaking HIV self-testing (HIVST) program on July 19, 2023, at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly. Coordinated by the National Planning Committee (NPC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the program aims to facilitate accessible and convenient HIV testing for individuals.

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The initiative, themed “Test Yourself: Know Your Status,” comes in response to the need for increased awareness and testing among Ghanaians. Currently, the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) estimates that over 350,000 people are living with HIV in the country, with only approximately 71% of them aware of their status. This leaves a significant portion, 29%, unknowingly transmitting the virus.

The Lead Coordinator of the Ghana and AIDS Network, Ernest Amoabeng Ortsin, explained the process of HIVST, comparing it to familiar at-home tests such as those for malaria or pregnancy. Oral HIVST involves swabbing the upper and lower gums with a test stick, then dipping it into a solution. Within 20 minutes, the results can be read. A single line indicates a negative result, while two lines suggest a reactive result, requiring confirmation at a healthcare facility. It’s important to note that users should refrain from eating, drinking, or using oral care products 30 minutes before the test.

The implementation of HIVST has already shown promising results in other Sub-Saharan African countries, including South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Nigeria, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, and Cameroon. These initiatives have contributed to higher testing rates, particularly among hard-to-reach populations, due to the privacy and confidentiality provided by self-testing. The Ghana HIVST program aims to follow this successful trend and attract first-time testers.

The official launch of the program will be attended by various dignitaries, including Members of Parliament, Traditional Leaders, Religious Leaders, Development Partners, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and the Media. The ceremony will be held at the Omanye Aba Hall of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and presided over by the Minister for Health, Hon. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu (MP).

Preparations for the program were preceded by a pilot conducted by two organizations, SH:24 (a UK-based online sexual and reproductive health service organization) and the Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET). The pilot involved the distribution of HIVST kits through virtual platforms and courier services in Accra by SH:24, while GHANET undertook community-based distribution in 50 districts across the country. Preliminary results from the pilot indicate that Ghanaians view HIVST as a convenient and effective method for testing and obtaining their status.

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