The World Health Organization on Monday launched the Self- Testing Africa (STAR) project, on the ongoing international Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa ( ICASA) with the aim of distributing 750 000 self testing kits throughout Southern Africa.
By Edward Makuzva
Health Minister Dr David parirenyatwa said people need to know their HIV status, globally, it is estimated that less than 50% of all people living with HIV are aware of their HIV status.
Parirenyatwa said health ministry officials from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe – the three project implantation countries will join HIV/AIDS community donors, implementers and researchers.
“UNAIDS’s ambitious 90-90-90 treatment targets set for the year 2020 call on the global community to ensure that 90% of people living with HIV know their status.
“Self-testing may play a crucial role in addressing key barriers to HIV testing, including privacy and access concerns”, Parirenyatwa explained.
The STAR Project is the largest evaluation of HIV self-testing in Africa which can increase the effective use of HIV self-testing at national and global levels.
Minister Parirenyatwa added the two year US $ 23 million Population Service International (PSI) and STAR project is being implemented in partnership with the London School of Hygiene, Tropical Medicine, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and University College London.
Speaking at the same occasion, Project Director of UNIATAID/ PSI TAR Dr Karin Hatzold said the project will promote self testing to better and reach people with limited access to current HIV testing services due to privacy issues or lack of convenient.
Hatzold said the programme encouraged re-testing among those at high risk.
The project director added the STAR project is designed to test distribution models to reach people with low access to current HIV testing services, including populations in rural and peri- urban areas.
She said the key targeted groups are female sex workers and men who sex with men.
“In Zimbabwe and Malawi, key target groups will also include female sex workers and men who have sex with men.
“The kits will allow individuals to test themselves using an oral swab, at a time and location convenient to them and provide the results within minutes”, Hatzold.
The project will facilitate the distribution of nearly 750,000 HIV self-test kits across the three participating countries – Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The two-year research initiative is led by PSI and UNITAID in collaboration with both in-country and international partners.
The STAR Project aims to generate crucial information about how to distribute self-test products effectively, ethically, efficiently, and catalyze the market for HIV self-testing and inform the development of WHO global guidance and national policy formulation on HIV Self-Testing.