You better believe what you have just read. When it comes to HIV/AIDS, the new word in the medical world is self-testing.
With the advent of new technologies in medicine, you and I can know our HIV status with a simple test that can be taken in the privacy of our homes.
Nowadays, testing yourself for HIV means that you and other people can use oral fluid or blood-finger-pricks to discover their status in a private and convenient setting. Results are ready within 20 minutes or less.
Some tests only require a swab of saliva and your result is ready after 30 minutes.
This is important because of the stigma associated with the viral disease. Most people are often scared to take the test in laboratories or health centres where they can run into any one they know.
These fears are profound and not unfounded. We have had instances where untrained nurses carelessly disclosed the HIV status of patients to other people.
Being able to test yourself makes it easier to accept the result, says consultant haematologist, Dr. Kunle Adetayo.
Adetayo says that despite the counselling given to patients before testing, having someone else disclose their results is often a blow that many may not recover from.
“I would rather be the first to know that I am HIV positive or not. It’s a diagnosis most people would prefer to know. Then you can quietly walk into a clinic and get registered for treatment, knowing you have scaled the first hurdle.
“Self-testing will also increase the population of people who know their HIV status because believe it or not, more than half of those infected do not know and they will keep transmitting it,” he says.
Adetayo painted the right picture. According to the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Margaret Chan, new statistics show that over 40 per cent of those infected with HIV are unaware of their status.
Chan says, “Millions of people with HIV are still missing out on life-saving treatment, which can also prevent HIV transmission to others.
“HIV self-testing should open the door for many more people to know their HIV status and find out how to get treatment and access prevention services.”
Doctors note that even though over 90 million Nigerians know that HIV/AIDS exists and kills when not detected early, they are yet to get tested.