The Ministry of Health has launched a new HIV blood self-testing kit, which has been piloted and found effective for use among university students.
The Health Minister, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, says that the test kit dubbed “Check Now” was developed by global medical device company Abbott and tested for effectiveness by the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).
She says that the kit is recommended for use as a screening tool not just for young people but other groups, which are more at risk of HIV infection compared to the rest of the population.
A pilot study for the test kit was conducted in seven universities and now the plan is to have young people that were involved in the study introduce the testing method to their peers.
The target is to initially have thirty thousand young people tested as this group is a critical segment considering the fact that prevalence among young people especially adolescents and young women is higher than the 5% national average.
Dr. Joshua Musinguzi, the Programme Manager of the AIDS Control Programme, says that they still have in stock donated test kits, which they will continue to distribute in a pilot mode until the country secures enough products to reach other members of the public.
However, it’s not yet clear when the product will be available for everyone as Aceng says they are banking on donors like Global Fund or the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to procure it for use in Uganda after negotiations with Abbott on the prices.
Asked about their distribution plan, Bassem Bibi, Abbott’s Divisional President for Middle East and Africa, said that they hope to distribute both to the government and the private sector though they haven’t yet established, how much a kit will cost on the general market.
While Abbott is targeting to sell the kit globally, Uganda is among the first four countries to launch together with South Africa, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Uganda has in addition to blood-based self-test kits had oral swab tests.
Aceng says evaluation data on oral swabs are not yet released by the virus research institute. So far, data from the Ministry of Health shows over 90% of adult Ugandans know their HIV status.