As the Ministry of Health considers introducing self-testing for HIV in Guyana, the Executive Director of the HIV support and counseling group, Artistes in Direct Support, Desiree Edghill has not been fully sold on the idea.
Ms. Edghill, who has been involved in the fight against HIV for more than two decades explained to News Source today that while she is not opposed to the idea, she is uncomfortable with the move at this time, especially on a large scale level.
She said Artistes in Direct Support has been advocating for years for pre and post-test counseling, which is something that self-testing will not provide.
“I was concerned earlier when we first heard about self-testing, about people going home doing the test and committing suicide because they could not deal with the whole idea of being positive, that was my biggest concern” Edghill told News Source.
In Guyana, when a person is tested positive for HIV, Organizations like Artistes in Direct Support would work along with those persons to access treatment sites, where treatment is free. She said she is not convinced that if someone does their own test and it turns out positive that they’ll seek any treatment.
The HIV/AIDS Activist said the move to self-testing for HIV must be carefully considered.
While admitting that self-testing is already happening in many countries, Edghill cautioned that what may be working in other countries, may not be suitable for Guyana.
“And so, there has to be consultations where we go through it, get all the stakeholders involved and to see if that is a good thing for Guyana…..a lot of awareness has to happen.” she asserted.
She added too that given that the Ministry is talking about it, it may be coming free of cost and that too has to be looked at.
But, Edghill who was part of the consultations on the composition of the new HIV National Strategic Plan (NSP) 2021-2025, which aims to strengthen the national response to HIV/AIDS, said that initially there was no budget in the plan for self-testing.
The Plan was launched by Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony on Tuesday.