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Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D.

At Home in Africa

By December 10, 2012

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Home HIV tests have recently begun to hit the shelves in the United States, and it will be interesting to see if the expensive tests get much traction -- given the relative ease of finding free, anonymous HIV testing around the country. Interestingly, such tests may actually turn out to be more useful, and cost-effective, in high risk areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV testing is not nearly as widely available. That, at least, is the suggestion of a research article that was published last week in PLOS Medicine.

The researchers who performed the study found that individuals in five African countries - Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, and Malawi - were generally willing to agree to home testing. Depending on the setting, between 58 and 99.8 percent agreed to take a home HIV test, and the overall probability of agreeing to test was 83 percent, with no significant difference between men and women. Furthermore, many of the individuals who tested positive had not previously been aware of their status, which suggests that home based testing may be a good way to reach new high-risk individuals in such low-resource settings.

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