HIV testing Campaigns are still missing the men

HIV testing Campaigns are still missing the menHIV positive women were at greater risk of developing cervical cancer, HIV negative women were also at risk.Pic: Sibongile Nkosi

If we don’t get more heterosexual men to test for HIV, the world is going to miss  the UNAIDS target of 90 percent of HIV positive people knowing their status by 2020, according to experts.

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Patient testing for HIV
Patient testing for HIV

“We have made major improvements in testing women and children through the PMTCT programme, but we are still missing the men,” Rachel Baggaley, the head of HIV Prevention at the World Health Organisation (WHO), told the International AIDS conference.

According to Baggaley, it is still very hard to get the men in developing countries to test for HIV and often when they do they results are positive.

“We have to find a way to follow the men where they are whether it be at sporting events or at the bars to encourage testing. Currently only 51 percent of HIV positive people that know their status and we have to find ways to reach the rest of the 49 percent.”

In Kenya, some non-profit organisations are organising football tournaments in low-income areas around Nairobi and offering free HIV testing and counselling for attendees.

“Most of these men are very shy to come to the health facilities because of fear of shame but are often more comfortable when health care services come them,” said Dorothy Mbori- Ngacha, Senior HIV Specialist at UNICEF at Nigeria.

“There are still many barriers to HIV testing, which include stigma, privacy issues, distance to the clinic, long wait times and lack of community involvement.”

In South Africa, community testing strategies piloted by Medicins sans Frontiers in KwaZulu-Natal have been able to reach working men who have no time to visit health facilities. The MSF community health care workers conduct door-to-door testing. “The lay workers in communities and facilities are the glue holding everything together, as they are able to test and refer patients to clinic for treatment initiation,” says said Musa Ndlovu, Deputy Field Coordinator for MSF in KwaZulu-Natal

“We need governments to ensure that a workforce of lay people is employed, maintained and expanded throughout the region, to provide testing, treatment initiation and adherence support for all who need it,” he added. – Health-e News.

An edited version of this story was also published on IOL