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Why HIV self-testing is important

Public and private sector employees have been advised to know their HIV/AIDS status using HIV self-testing kits. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), HIV…

Public and private sector employees have been advised to know their HIV/AIDS status using HIV self-testing kits.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), HIV self-testing is a process in which a person collects his or her own specimen (oral fluid or blood), using a simple rapid test; performs the test as per given instructions; and interprets the result. The result needs to be confirmed by further testing at a facility.

The lack of knowledge of HIV status has led to about 53,000 AIDS-related deaths in the country.

Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world and one of the highest rates of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa in a data by avert.org.

Many are hesitant to know their status due to the challenges attached to visiting laboratories for HIV testing services. Some of which include missed work opportunities, loss of privacy, lack of convenience, stigmatization, discrimination, inconvenience, financial barriers to access, among others. Hence, the campaign for HIV AIDS self-testing kits.

During a chat with our correspondent, the senior programmes and evaluation officer, Nigeria Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCAA), Damilola Araoye, said when private sector employees have knowledge of their HIV status, it would assist such persons in early care and treatment as well as further accelerate the HIV/AIDS response in Nigeria.

According to her, “Reaching the private sector with the HIV self-testing project would encourage more individuals to know their HIV status.

“Through the self-test project, we believe we will be able to reach out to more Nigerian employees, to help them know their HIV status as well as help the government in its response in curbing HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.”

Due to the stigma attached to positive HIV status in some workplaces, Araoye emphasized that employees are not mandated to disclose their HIV status after using the self-testing kit.

She said, “We have heard that some companies make it mandatory, especially for new intakes, to go through a compulsory health check which includes HIV. In this process, the employer is privy to health record of each employee.

“An employer should neither discriminate nor stigmatize an employee based on their HIV AIDS status as this is highly condemnable.

“People living with HIV have the right to live a healthy and productive life as stigma could affect them negatively and also reduce their morale. This in turn will reflect in the work they do.

“Every employer should show them the care they need so they don’t feel neglected or discriminated in any form.

“All employees in each company should be aware of the implications of stigmatizing and discriminating against someone or people living with HIV AIDS in each firm,” she said.

She encouraged individuals to embrace the HIV self-test kit as knowing their status would assist them in starting their treatment on time.

“If they are able to start their treatment on time and they are consistent with it, it becomes significantly low that they are unable to transmit the disease to someone else. Everyone, regardless of whether the person is a private or public sector employee, should get tested and know their HIV status,” she stated.

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