“Know your status” has become a rallying cry for the greater community. National HIV Testing Day this coming Saturday is a powerful reminder of how access to accurate information can help save lives. Getting tested for HIV should be a part of one’s regular health check-up, and if you are sexually active it’s recommended to get tested at least once a year.
National HIV Testing Day was established 25 years ago to encourage people to get tested for, know their status, and get linked to care and treatment. Knowing one’s HIV status is important not only to protect oneself but to also protect others. This year’s event will look a bit different due to COVID-19.
How do we ensure our communities test for HIV when people are sheltering at home or practicing social distancing? This is where a pharmacy needs to adopt measures such as HIV self-testing. During the past few months several government agencies have recommended that organisations establish HIV self-testing programmes to immediately address the new challenges posed by COVID-19. These agencies have also guided supported organizations to access grant funds for HIV self-test kits.
Pharmacies are easily accessible. Easy access is crucial for patients to not stray away from getting tested. It is important for everyone to have the privacy of doing the test independently, in their own time, and without the queues and the fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus that comes with congregating in public. Furthermore, the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) has published draft legislation that tests sold in pharmacies must be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) as proof of quality control. All of which makes the testing process streamlined for those who would usually avoid getting tested - especially during a global pandemic.
Most HIV self-test kits rely on a few drops of blood, are easy to use and give patients results in 15 minutes. The tests approved by the WHO are considered to be 99% accurate. If your pharmacy does not sell these yet, it is highly recommended to look into this option for your patients as this is most certainly a step in the right direction.
South Africa lacks widespread health care facilities and resources for every member of our population to have access to an HIV self-testing kit. Our pharmacies taking on some of the strain of our current overburdened healthcare system is definitely taking great steps towards assisting the country in providing this service to more and more people. Encourage your visitors to purchase a kit and have themselves tested not only on this important day, but as a matter of yearly habit.
Testing and “Knowing” has gained new importance to end the HIV epidemic. COVID-19 has interrupted so much of “normal” life. Let’s make sure it does not halt the fight against HIV/AIDS. Now is not the time to pause. It is the time to keep going stronger.
Team LocumBase is here to support your pharmacy in optimising business. Reach out to us via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.locumbase.com and get your Pharmacy signed up and streamlining processes today!