Windhoek-The rapid HIV testing kits that people use to test themselves to find out their HIV status in a discrete way is ‘very’ popular among young people, New Era has established.
A random survey with various Windhoek pharmacies found that young people between 18 to 30 years are regular buyers of the HIV home self- testing kits.
Pharmacists at Langerhans and Medisun pharmacy say that the home testing kits for HIV are “very popular” among young people.
The prices differ depending on the pharmacy, but would usually cost between N$20 to 40 depending on where one purchases it.
A pharmacist at Langerhans pharmacy, who preferred to only use her first name, Brigitte, cautioned that young people should use condoms at all times because that would protect them against HIV.
“They (young people) buy the test themselves to use at home so that they can have unprotected sex, but one of them could have just contracted the virus and it doesn’t show until up to six weeks. That is very dangerous,” Brigitte said.
She further warned people not to trust a partner they just met by immediately opting to have unprotected sex because some people have multiple sexual partners.
“We explain to the clients that if it (HIV rapid home test) tests positive they have to see a doctor to confirm the final result because sometimes it can give a false positive,” explained Brigitte, and emphasised that getting tested at a health facility is always advisable. Self-testing for HIV at home can be empowering, according to Dr Simon Agolory, the Country Director for the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
He said this when speaking at a media briefing on Friday, where he responded to questions about the problems that can arise because of testing at home for HIV.
“Based on what’s published nobody killed themselves because of self-testing,” Agolory said, but to the contrary people who tested themselves for HIV felt empowered.
Meanwhile, Agolory also said in his presentation that young people between 20 and 24 years shy away from testing for HIV at health facilities.
Statistics show that young men in the 20 to 24 age groups are not particularly keen on testing for HIV. Experts estimate that only 23 percent of HIV positive men in this group are on antiretroviral treatment.
The remaining 77 percent do not know their status or do know, but are not on treatment.
Likewise, about 38 percent of women in the 20 to 24 age group are on antiretroviral treatment, while the rest do not know their status or are not on treatment, according to statistics from the CDC.
Meanwhile, the ambassador of the United States of America to Namibia, Thomas Daughton, stressed that young men in particular do not want to have the test to find out their HIV status.
HIV remains the number one killer in Namibia with up to 3,900 deaths annually, according to Daughton. The national prevalence for the 15 to 49 years group is 13.3 percent.
“There is still more work to be done and this is not the time to become complacent,” Daughton said.