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A world’s first: Know your HIV status by SMS

Discussion in 'Mahusiano, mapenzi, urafiki' started by Shadow, Dec 29, 2008.

  1. Shadow

    Shadow JF-Expert Member

    Dec 29, 2008
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    TACAIDS - any comment?

    By Peter Orengo

    The festive season is here and it is time to make merry.

    It is also a time when there is increased sexual activity and unsafe sex especially after over indulgence in alcohol.

    The attendant risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases is high as people meet new acquaintances.

    A HIV testing centre in Nairobi. Using the new VCT online, you will be able to know the status of a partner through an SMS. Photos: Collins Kweyu And Evans Habil/Standard

    People who travel to new places where HIV prevalence is high are also at great risk.

    But there is a new HIV and Aids intervention method to help such individuals.

    The bold intercession service code-named VCT online, championed by Kenya Institute for Capacity Development and Research (KICDR), is a new SMS-based service, which enables individuals know the status of their potential partner.

    How it works

    This is how it works. VCT online is founded on the simple proposition that a HIV negative person has a high risk of getting infected through unprotected sex with a HIV positive person.

    Since HIV spreads sexually in most cases, avoiding the pairing of one HIV negative person and a HIV positive person can help in prevention.

    KICDR has helped VCT online create a database, which stores the HIV status of thousands of people, confidentially, individually and anonymously.

    After joining, you authorise VCT online to compare your status with any other member you choose. The member’s date, like yours, must be listed.

    That member is also required to authorise release of information regarding you.

    Then VCT online sends both of you an SMS telling you if your status is similar or different.

    To join and get your HIV status into VCT online database, you buy a MTEJA CARD at Sh150. You then create an account for yourself via SMS and submit a blood sample to an authorised sample collector near you.

    The VCT uses the custom SMS interface to deposit the results directly to the VCT online database, indicating the date when the test was done.

    In the SMS, individuals must quote a valid card number and any password of their choice.

    If the card is valid, VCT online database sends an SMS reply confirming the creation of an account, and assign individuals a reference number for that account.

    Unsafe Sex

    KICDR Director Louis Othieno says 90 per cent of new HIV infections are due to unsafe sex, hence the need to address sexuality.

    "There are still a lot of people who don’t know their HIV status and contribute to the spread of the virus without knowing," he says.

    VCT online is the first service of its kind in the world. "Until now, people contemplating to have sex could only confidently check for discordancy by visiting the same VCT together," says Pamela Owino, a director of KICR.

    She says this caused trauma to the persons involved because they learn their status as well as their partners.

    "VCT online does not reveal the actual HIV status of its clients but enables individuals make informed decisions on their sexual pairings," she adds.

    VCT online is currently being used in Nyanza Province, which has the highest HIV infection in the country, at 15 per cent rate compared to national prevalence rate of 7.4 per cent.

    Mr Othieno says a national roll-out is being planned for early next year and then spread to several other African countries.

    He says the method, though revolutionary, will successfully identify 99 per cent of discordant sexual pairings, long before they occur.

    There have been concerns over the fact that majority of Kenyans are unaware of their HIV status in the wake of chilling statistics, showing an upsurge of new infections among married couples.

    While Kenya has had some success in the fight against HIV, people need to know their status and that of their potential partners.

    The Standard | Online Edition :: A world’s first: Know your HIV status by SMS