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HIV self-testing


MONTEGO BAY, St James — The National Family Planning Board (NFPB) has reintroduced HIV self-test kit, OraQuick, to the Jamaican market. This time, however, instead of the NFPB team carrying out the tests, the kits are for people who wish to self-test at home.

The rapid screening test, which is said to be the first Food and Drug Administration-approved oral swab in-home test for HIV-1 and HIV-2, is now available at 22 pharmacies across the island. The average cost for one of the kits is $1,800.

Director of the Health Promotion and Prevention Unit at the National Family Planning Board, Andrea Campbell told the Jamaica Observer that NFPB’s outreach team had used OraQuick for many years, but had to discontinue its use due to cost. She explained that with the organisation’s recent decision to promote self-testing as an additional way of screening for the virus, it was reintroduced last month and is now available at select pharmacies.

“What usually happens is that previously, we usually used it to test people — the outreach team usually used it — that is what you call the assisted testing. However, now, we are pushing it as a self-test where persons can purchase it at the pharmacies and test themselves in the comfort and privacy of their own homes,” Campbell said.

She explained to Your Health Your Wealth that one of the fast track targets set by the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which is to have 95 per cent of people living with HIV being aware of their status, also influenced the NFPB’s decision to introduce self-testing as an option for Jamaicans.

“The UNAIDS target is 95 per cent so we are to identify 95 per cent of persons who are positive and, of that 95 per cent, there is a need to put 95 per cent on treatment, which would lead to that 95 per cent being virally suppressed. So for prevention, we are supposed to identify 95 per cent of persons who are positive, and in Jamaica we estimate that there is approximately 32,000 persons living with HIV. And if we look at 95 per cent [of that number], that would be about 30,000. So far, we have identified about 27,000 [people] so we are [now] introducing self-testing as another option for persons to know their status,” she said.

The UNAIDS fast track strategy is aimed at ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

Campbell, acknowledging that the organisation’s approach of testing for HIV by using its outreach team has become somewhat normalised, said there was a need for another method.

“I remember back in the days when we introduced outreach testing, when we had our World AIDS Day or Safer Sex Day, we could easily test over 1,000 persons on any given day – we even had people lining up to get tested. But now, the buses go out and we have to beg people to come and get tested,” she said.

OraQuick requires that users swab along the gumline of the mouth, both top and bottom. There is no blood involved. The swab, which essentially collects HIV antibodies from oral fluid, is then placed in the test tube provided. The results should be available in 20 minutes.

For the results, there is a C-line and a T-line. If no C-line appears, the test is not working. If only the C-line appears, the test is negative. If HIV antibodies collect at the T-line as well, essentially showing a double line, it indicates that the test is positive.

Campbell reiterated that OraQuick is a screening test, and therefore urged individuals who opt to self-test and receive a positive result to visit a health facility for a confirmatory test to be done.

“With OraQuick, it is just offering them another option of knowing their HIV status…If you get a positive result, because you have been told that this is screening test and for a confirmatory test you need to go to a health facility, we are hoping that if persons get a positive on their screen, then they would go to a facility to get a confirmatory test to know exactly what the result is,” Campbell told Your Health Your Wealth.

Wondering where you can buy OraQuick?

See the list of pharmacies below:

 

Kingston

• K’s Pharmacy Ltd

• Charlie’s Pharmacy Ltd

• The Medicine Chest

• Krysdave Pharmacy & Counselling Centre

 

St Ann

• Fontana Pharmacy – Ocho Rios

• Great House Pharmacy

• New Windsor Pharmacy

• Grand Drug Pharmacy

 

St James

• Fontana Pharmacy – Fairview

• J&J Pharmacy

• Corn-Med GWest Branch

• Corn-Med Oneness Plaza

 

Westmoreland

• Corn-Med Savanna-la-Mar • Royale Pharmacy

 

Manchester

• Caledonia Mall Pharmacy

• Three Angels Pharmacy

 

Trelawny

• New Duncan’s Pharmacy

• Drug Care and Gift Centre

 

Clarendon

• Sunshine Pharmacy

• Health First Pharmacy

 

Hanover

• Valkens Hopewell Pharmacy

 

Portland

• Taj Pharmacy

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