Prof Oliver Ezechi, Director of Research and Principal investigator ITEST Project, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Lagos has called for improved access to HIV self testing with the aim of reducing the risks associated to low testing in the country.
Prof Ezechi made the call during an online training of journalists on biomedical HIV prevention research advocacy and update on the COVID-19 response organized by New HIV Vaccine and Microbicides Advocacy Society, NHVMAS,
The online training which holds weekly is the third in the series with the theme –‘HIV self testing: Lesson from the field’.
Prof Ezechi stressed that it is important that adolescents and young persons have access to HIV self testing to help remove the stigma associated with going to the hospital.
“Our hospitals are not youth friendly, our hospitals are not adolescents friendly. Imagine a 17 year old teenager going to the hospital for HIV test and meeting with old people like me, she will be criticized that she is already having sex.
“Sexuality and sex is a private issue and an individual should be allowed to make such decisions on their own.
“HIV self-testing will end this stigmatization,” he added.
The Chief Research Fellow at NIMER also disclosed that HIV self-testing is important because it is one of the way to reach the key populations.
He stressed that because of the law in the country which criminalizes homosexuality, many of them get married and they become bisexual and as such could transmit the virus to others.
“HIV self-testing is one of the way we can upscale HIV testing in the country. That is one of the way we can achieve 95% of detecting people who are HIV positive. That is one of the way we can reach the key populations
“People have said it would not be acceptable and whoever tested positive if they are not counseled might commit suicide but for the past two years that we have been doing self-testing for young persons and we’ve not heard any single report of anyone who tested positive and committed suicide or got depressed.
Prof Ezechi noted that self testing is not new just as applicable in pregnancy and sugar level self testing.