Government to launch HIV self-testing vending machines

Dr Catherine Ngugi,Head of NACOP during the interview with the Standard at the Doctors' Covid Centre,Nairobi ,April 21st,2020 [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The government plans to launch HIV self-testing electronic vending machines (EVMs) next month.

According to Catherine Ngugi, the head, division of the National Aids and STIs Control Programme (Nascop), the launch will be held during World Aids Day in Kajiado County.

Speaking during the Fourth African Conference of Science Journalists on Tuesday in Nairobi, Ngugi said the machine will function just the way one can buy an item from a vending machine.

She revealed that the agency was working closely with different organisations to enhance HIV testing uptake.

“This is part of our efforts to scale up the use of self-tests in the private sector and specifically in workplace settings,” she said.

Nascop partners Farmers Choice Limited and OraSure Technologies Inc will pilot two EVMs.

Pilot project

“Farmers Choice Limited has over 1,500 staff, a majority of whom are men. Self-tests will be dispensed at no cost to the personnel at the company,” said Ngugi (right).

She said use of EVMs in HIV care and treatment programmes was not new, noting that condom vending machines have been implemented globally in public restrooms, petrol stations and campus halls of residence.

“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.

Ngugi said the project, if successful, will be rolled out countrywide.

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

Ngugi added that dispensing will be based on the assessment of a patient's needs and availability of adequate ARVs.

Balanced reporting

While warning that the focus of information flow has now shifted from other killer diseases to Covid-19, she challenged the media to find a balance in reporting on the pandemic while continuing to tell stories around HIV and other life-threatening diseases.

“This will help us not to negate the strides made prior to this pandemic,” she added. [Isaiah Gwengi]