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Understanding HIVAIDS testing and counseling standards in Kenya

 Blood sample positive with HIV. [iStockphoto]

News about the quality of HIV test kits in Kenya has the potential to unsettle any previous and recent users.

The mortal fear that one might have unwittingly exposed themselves to HIV is understandable.

In Kenya, HIV testing standards are rigorously regulated by both the Ministry of Health's National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). These standards ensure adherence to strict protocols, quality assurance, and the preservation of users’ confidentiality.

Informed consent is paramount before conducting any HIV test, with exceptions only in specific circumstances such as court orders. Testing must never be mandatory for employment, marriage, education, travel, or health insurance purposes.

Kenya adopted two main approaches for HIV testing: Client-Initiated Testing and Counseling (CITC) and Provider Initiated Testing and Counseling (PITC). CITC involves users voluntarily seeking testing, while PITC involves health providers offering testing regardless of the reason for the visit, with an "opt-out" option.

These services are available in both community and facility-based settings to cater to various populations.

WHO recommends offering HIV testing to all patients attending health facilities, irrespective of symptoms or reasons for the visit, particularly in generalized HIV epidemics like Kenya's.

Moreover, pre-test counselling should provide comprehensive information to facilitate informed consent, while post-test counselling should be tailored to the test outcome and individual client needs. This includes referrals. Quality assurance measures are rigorously implemented to ensure accurate HIV test results, following the national HIV testing algorithm.

In addition to these standards, Kenya incorporates WHO's recommendations on HIV testing algorithms, encompassing both the two-test and three-test strategies. The two-test algorithm involves initial screening with a rapid diagnostic test (RDT), followed by confirmation with a second different RDT.

However, the three-test algorithm comprises an initial RDT screening, confirmation with a second RDT, and a final test using an enzyme immunoassay (EIA) or Western blot. The three-test strategy provides three outcomes: Positive, Negative, and Indeterminate (Inconclusive).

For the two-test strategy, the diagnosis is based on the first two RDTs, with the result of the third test disregarded for analysis purposes. These algorithms play a crucial role in ensuring accurate diagnosis and appropriate management of HIV cases, further enhancing the effectiveness of HIV testing and counselling services in Kenya.

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