Seychelles launched an HIV self-test pilot project on the same day the country joined with others to commemorate World AIDS Day — December 1 — on Freedom Square in Victoria.
Based on the results collected from the pilot project, the Ministry of Health will decide if the country is ready to introduce the screening method. This year the theme for World AIDS Day is ‘Know your Status.’
Called OraQuick HIV Self-Test, the test allows an individual to detect antibodies to both HIV-1 and HIV-2 with a simple oral swab and provides a result in as little as 20 minutes in the privacy of one’s home.
After 20 minutes if only one line is visible on the swab, the result is negative. If there are two lines, even if the second is not very clear, there is a possibility that the person might be HIV positive. If the result shows two lines, the person should contact a health care clinic or nurse, so that a blood test can be done.
“Before making the self-tests available to the public, the relevant health bodies need to put in place strategies, guidelines and services,” said Sabrina Mousbe, the programme manager of the AIDS Control Programme in the Public Health Authority.
HIV — human immunodeficiency virus — attacks the body’s natural defence system and as a result, the body cannot fight infection and disease. AIDS, which stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is the final stage of infection with HIV. Not everyone with HIV develops AIDS.
Since the first case of HIV was detected in Seychelles in 1987, 177 Seychellois have died from the virus. To date, there are 763 people living with HIV in the archipelago in the western Indian Ocean with 95,000 inhabitants.
Mousbe explained that a helpline service will need to be set up as there will be a need for counselling.
“In the pack, there will be leaflets with information about pre-counselling and post-counselling and at the same time, there will be phone numbers that a person can call after taking the test or if you need the assistance of a healthcare staff,” she said.
Healthcare officials hope that as the test can be done in the comfort of one’s home, this will encourage people to get tested and as a result know their HIV status.
Mousbe said that the new test is expected to bring infected people into the health service where they will be able to receive treatment, bringing Seychelles closer to the 90-90-90 status.
The 90-90-90 status is a target each country has to meet to help end the AIDS epidemic. In order for a country to attain this by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV should know their HIV status. By 2020, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection should receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy should have viral suppression.
During a press conference held on Thursday, it was outlined that the main obstacles Seychelles is facing include stigma and discrimination, and the increasing number of intravenous drug users.
The conference after a 17-member delegation from Seychelles attended the 17th HIV/AIDS Colloquium which took place in Mauritius last week.