Self-testing kits vital in strengthening response against HIV: advocacy group

Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 03 2021 11:25 PM

MANILA - Self- testing kits should be made available to curb HIV infections in the Philippines, an advocacy group said Thursday, as cases of the virus continue to rise.

The Philippines is one of the countries in Southeast Asia with increasing cases of HIV infections, based on a UNAIDS study.

People may be exposed to low-quality test kits available online or in the black market that may give them inaccurate results, experts said.

"We had a client in our facility where he reported to us that he is HIV negative on his self-test kit that he ordered online, but he is actually HIV positive. So the quality of HIV testing that they receive from these kits that are not WHO qualified really affects how they should have access to service," said Danvic Rosadiño, of operations and research director of LoveYourself, an advocacy group.

"This is a major problem."

International AIDS Society Governing Council member Andrew Grulich said HIV testing is the absolute "gateway to treatment and prevention."

"If you don't know if you are positive or negative, you can't be treated," he emphasized.

Self-testing kits will also allow people to get themselves tested privately, especially if they fear social stigma.

Rosadiño said currently working on HIV testing guidelines to allow self-testing. Right now, the health department allows testing to be conducted only by lab technologists.

"We are hopeful that self-testing will be offered legally in the Philippines," he said.

Under Republic Act 11166 or The Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are mandated to provide medical benefits, without discrimination, to employed people living with HIV (PLHIV).

Under Article 5, PLHIV will now get health and support services including medication and treatment "for opportunistic infections.

The law also penalizes people who will discriminate against HIV-positive individuals.

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