Vending machines to boost HIV self-testing in new plan

A lab scientist tests blood samples for HIV viral loads at the Kenya Medical Research Institute on April 7.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenya is poised to launch electronic vending machines for HIV self-test kits. This comes almost three years after the government introduced self-testing in the country.

National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (Nascop) boss Catherine Ngugi said the single-use kits will allow people to get results in minutes from the comfort of their homes. Speaking during the Fourth African Conference of Science Journalists in Nairobi, Dr Ngugi said the launch will take place on World Aids Day in Kajiado County.

 “The machine will function just the way you can buy a chocolate from a vending machine,” she explained. Dr Ngugi noted that the use of vending machines in HIV care and treatment programmes was not new, citing condom vending machines that are in widespread use in public rest-rooms, petrol stations and campus hostels.

“They provide discretion, enhance privacy and in turn reduce users’ feelings of embarrassment and fear or risk of stigma from health providers in the community,” she said.

If successful, the project will be rolled out countrywide, with the hope that the machines will reverse the dip in the number of people testing for HIV due to Covid-19.

“The self-testing kit will be part of a series of safer and more effective treatment regimens,” she said, adding it will be followed by full implementation of dispensing of three months or more of HIV treatment.

Dr Ngugi said Nascop has partnered with different organisations such as Farmers Choice and OraSure Technologies to implement a pilot of two self-test machines.

“Farmer’s Choice has over 1,500 staff, majority of whom are men. Self-tests will be dispensed at no cost to the personnel at the company,” she added.  

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