According to the International AIDS Society, the shift of health system resources to COVID-19 and national lockdowns have severely affected HIV testing, treatment, and prevention services. South Africa has the biggest HIV epidemic in the world, with 7.7 million people living with HIV— 19% of the the population. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, HIV testing has decreased more than a third, with a similar reduction in people starting ARV treatment. This is very concerning, and could potentially derail the progress of HIV response in South Africa.
If you have HIV, learning about your status allows you to begin ARV treatment, stay healthy, and avoid spreading the virus to others. At the beginning of June, the BI received 2,000 HIV self-tests to ensure regular testing among sexually active members in our community.
The HIV self-test is an FDA-approved oral swab that allows people the privacy to test at home, without requiring a blood sample. During home visits, our Nomakhayas now offer community members an HIV self-test, and are trained to explain how the test works, and offer assistance and a demonstration, if requested. After two weeks, our Nomakhayas follow up to offer further support and linking services.
Increasing access to HIV testing, and providing a test that allows people to feel comfortable and private, is vital for reducing the spread of HIV in our communities. Today on National HIV Testing Day, we wish to continue to raise awareness about the importance of HIV testing and early diagnosis in our community, and beyond.
Check out our HIV Self-Test Campaign in isiXhosa and English.
In South Africa, for a limited time, HIV self-tests are available at selected pharmacies, pick yours up: find a pharmacy.