Research on HIV oral self tests in Malawi

Below is some information that I have gathered from reading scientific papers and Internet sources about the research being conducted on HIV oral self-testing in Malawi.

Why is the research being conducted?

The research is being conducted to measure the effectiveness of self-testing with the possibility of introducing it nationwide. The study will also look into whether self testing can be linked to counselling and HIV care.

Who is conducting the research?

Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust (which is a collaboration between Wellcome Trust (UK) and the College of Medicine) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Where is the research being conducted?

So far in Blantyre townships e.g. Bangwe and Ndirande. There will be 14 study neighbourhoods totalling 18 000 people.

When did this research start and for how long will it last?

It started in February 2012. (I was not able to find information on how long the research will last or when the results will be published.)

What is happening?

Twenty-eight volunteers have been trained by the Ministry of Health. These volunteers are distributing self-test kits and training people in the community.  These volunteers also offer counselling.

What is the background?

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 60 percent of people living with HIV do not know their status. Factors that are barrier to testing are inconvenience, cost involved in visiting services and confidentiality.

A Blantyre study in 2010 found that self-testing for HIV (after a brief demonstration and illustrated instructions) is highly accurate and is widely accepted by the community. Self-testing was the preferred option for future HIV tests for 56.4 percent of participants and the most common choice for both men and women. Self-testing may encourage and improve regular repeat testing, couples testing, and testing in hard to reach groups like men and older individuals.

How do oral tests work?

Oraquick rapid HIV 1/2 tests uses samples from human oral fluid or finger stick blood to detect antibodies to HIV. It returns results in 20 minutes. A study published earlier this year found rapid oral test that collect mouth fluids are nearly as accurate as traditional blood tests.

So far what has happened?

Trained counsellors have provided kits to 2 800 residents. 90 percent of the participants have returned for post test counselling. Participants are not obligated to share their results with their counsellors but so far 64 percent of participants have. Counsellors during post test counselling refer patients to clinics for confirmatory results.

What are the implications?

Improved confidentially and convenience of testing should increase HIV testing to the recommended adults testing once a year. This will improve the control of TB, improve the quality of life of people infected with HIV through early detection, treatment and care and also improve HIV prevention.

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