Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, Minister of Health, launching the National HIV Self-Testing kit for individuals and communities. Picture: ESTHER ADJORKOR ADJEI
Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, Minister of Health, launching the National HIV Self-Testing kit for individuals and communities. Picture: ESTHER ADJORKOR ADJEI

Self-testing for HIV begins nationwide

Forty-six people in the country are infected with HIV each day, the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) has revealed.


It said although the number was a reduction of the 62 new infections recorded daily five years ago and 52 new infections recorded daily three years ago, the pace of the decline was very slow.

“Our target is to have 17 per cent reduction in new infections every year but we were only able to achieve 10 per cent between 2021 and 2022, and so that means we have more than seven per cent gap.

We really have to address the gap,” the Director General of the GAC, Dr Kyeremeh Atuahene, explained.

Dr Atuahene, who made the revelation at the national launch of HIV Self-Testing (HIVST) kits in Accra yesterday, said the reduction was not enough, as it was the expectation of the commission to achieve a zero new infection rate every year.

HIV Self-Testing

The HIVST allows lay persons (non-medical workers) to test themselves for HIV in the comfort of their confidential spaces, without the presence and direct supervision of any health worker.

The testing delivers results within 10 minutes.

The test is done either using their blood sample or saliva, better known medically as “oral mucosal transudate”.

HIVST is a preliminary assessment to complement the routine test conducted by the trained service provider.

Hence, a reactive HIVST must be confirmed by the routine method of using three different tests in a series before a person is declared HIV positive.

The commission maintains that HIV testing is the foundation upon which effective HIV prevention and care programmes are anchored.

Unfortunately, only about 71 per cent of people living with HIV in Ghana are aware of their status, the commission said.

The remaining 29 per cent, consequently, pose a major public health concern as they may unknowingly be spreading the virus.

Annual new infections

Using averages, Dr Atuahene said 16,400 new HIV infections were recorded in the country annually.

He said the high number of infections posed a significant threat to the economy as HIV disproportionately affected the economically active population the most.

The Director-General of the AIDS Commission said it was also a major threat to efforts at ending the AIDS epidemic and achieving Universal Health Coverage.

“Despite advancements in prevention, treatment and care, the high number of new infections hampers the progress we have made thus far.

This situation calls for urgent action to prevent further transmission, provide treatment for those living with HIV and ensure equitable access to healthcare services,” Dr Atuahene said.

He encouraged people receiving treatment for HIV to adhere to the regime and maintain their suppressed viral status in order to enjoy a productive life.

Dr Atuahene also advised those who had stopped the anti-retroviral treatment to return to it immediately, pointing out that, it was still the only effective treatment for HIV.

On the HIV self-testing kit, the Director-General said it was an additional innovative solution to address the gaps in HIV testing and encourage more people to know their statuses.

“Self-testing will help address the gap in testing.

When we have tested the people and they are on treatment and are virally suppressed, then we have the opportunity to break the chain of HIV transmission which will significantly reduce new infections in the country,” Dr Atuahene noted.

Entry point to treatment

The Programme Manager of the National AIDS/STIs Control Programme, Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, called on the public to embrace the HIVST as it would help the country to achieve the 95-95-95 target  which states that by the end of 2025, Ghana must have diagnosed 95 per cent of all HIV-positive individuals; provide anti-retroviral therapy for 95 per cent of those diagnosed and achieve viral suppression for 95 per cent of those treated.

He said during the pilot phase of HIVST from March 2021 to June 2023, more than 200,000 of the kits had been distributed for free in the country through the health facilities and community channels.

The Minister of Health (MoH), Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, said the availability of HIVST kits was a significant step forward in the country’s quest to create a healthier nation, adding that by removing barriers to access, citizens were being empowered with knowledge on the need to protect themselves, their loved ones and the wider community.

He mentioned the various support the government had provided towards the HIV fight, adding that for the period 2021 to 2023 under the grant cycle, the government’s support to the National AIDS Control Programme was about $30.2 million as a result of which the MoH in 2022 procured an estimated $4.9 million HIV commodities.

The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, in a speech read on his behalf by the Director of Public Health of GHS, Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, stressed the need for all Ghanaians to embrace the HIVST as it would  bring health services closer to them.

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