Rwanda to allow pharmacies sell oral HIV self-testing kits

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Selected pharmacies in the Rwandan capital Kigali are in line to begin selling over-the- counter oral HIV self-testing kits, Rwanda’s New Times Daily has reported.

The report added that the price of the kit had also been slashed by half as a result of a government-private sector partnership. It said over 20 pharmacies in Kigali were receiving training on how to administer the kits.

The price was formerly pegged at Rwf 10,000 (about $11) but will be sold for Rwf 5,000 when it finally goes on sale later this year.

The regulatory agency, the Rwanda Biomedical Center, said HIV self-testing was to complement other testing methods. The measure which was introduced in December 2017 targets people who have tight work schedules and cannot submit to the conventional process.

A top official of the RBC, Sabin Nzanzimana confirmed that an earlier trial involving 6,000 kits had been successful distributed for free in the capital Kigali, which has the highest HIV rate in the country.

He disclosed further that another order of 100,000 kits is on the way, also to be distributed for free, as part of a mass awareness campaign.

“The feedback from users informed us that there is a significant demand, especially among the working and elite class of the population who usually fear making their status known when using the normal health facility testing channels,” Nzanzimana said.

“After realising this need, we came up with an innovative way of partnering with the private sector and make sure people have easy access at an affordable price,” he added.

Nzanzimana added that the negotiations were also extended to the Bethlehem-based OraSure Company (currently the only producer of Oral HIV test kit) which also agreed to sell to pharmacies at a lower price.

How the oral HIV self-testing kit works

  • Oral HIV self-testing kit allows one to discreetly determine their HIV status at a time and place that is convenient for them.
  • A person is supposed to swab the device on both upper and lower gingiva – the tissue (covered by mucous membrane) of the jaws that surrounds the bases of the teeth.
  • Put the device into a solvent liquid and read results on the same device within 15 to 20 minutes.
  • When the result is positive, the devise mark two red lines.
  • All positive results will need to be confirmed by a health care professional.
  • Ordinarily, in Rwanda, those found to be HIV-positive have to get free and immediate treatment and support at their nearest health facility.
  • The device is used once and has 99.7 per cent accuracy rate, higher than that of an average pregnancy test kit.
  • However, they may not detect infections that have occurred within the last three months, so it is recommended that those at high-risk are tested after every three months.

Reuters