Samaritan Ministry is a community leader providing opportunities for HIV testing in a variety of settings. The test that we use (OraQuick Advance Rapid HIV Antibody Test) provides a quick 20-minute turn-around with results provided by a trained HIV counselor.
“I remember the first time I got tested was extremely scary and made me feel that knowing my status, which could likely be positive, could mean the end of the world,” Hana said, recalling her experience from many years ago. At the time, stigma around being HIV positive was high, but knowledge about the virus and its transmission was low.
Hana and her friend, Selam, have been going to PSI/Ethiopia’s HIV prevention drop-in centers for the past 4 years. As peer educators and participants themselves, they understand that knowing your HIV status is an important factor in living a healthy life. As female sex workers, they know that their risk of contracting HIV is high. Because of this high risk, sex workers are a population that the USAID funded MULU/MARPs project, led by PSI/Ethiopia, can’t afford to miss.
Hana and Selam were part of the insight gathering phase of the HIV Self-Test (HIVST) kits that PSI/Ethiopia is launching in ten towns across Ethiopia where the burden of HIV is high. A first for the country, this project puts a strong emphasis on empowering consumers like Hana and Selam.
Hana and Selam tell PSI that they make sure to be tested every three months, even though the recommendation is to be tested every six months. “The last time I got tested was two weeks ago using the Ora-quick. It made no sense when it was being explained to me, but I found it to be so straight forward [when used]. It made me feel like I am the doctor administering my own health using something sophisticated. The convenience and the fact that I don’t have to feel judgment from health practitioners after knowing my status is so empowering that I told everyone I met that day about HIVST,” they explain.
After hearing this, USAID, government health bureaus and local implementing partners were excited about the potential that using the HIV self-testing kits would have with at risk populations. In addition to prevention of HIV through distribution of condoms, STI screening, free counseling and the drop-in centers, Hana and Selam said that being able to find these HIV self-test kits would be hugely beneficial for them.
Hana and Selam had different opinions about where they wanted to have access to the kits. In addition to the drop-in centers, the self-testing kits would be available at pharmacies and health centres.
“I simply can’t wait to show the HIVST kits to my peers once this product becomes abundantly available.” said Selam with a beaming smile.