SMS to find out HIV-AIDS compatibility
enyans are being urged to get HIV tested and have their status added to a confidential database that partners can query before having sex.
Before having sex with a partner, sending an SMS can authorise the comparison of both of your HIV status. The VCT online system then sends both persons an SMS telling and just if their status is similar or different.
The system does not reveal whether either party is positive or not as this would require face to face counselling but the key is that sex is safer between people of the same status. So a sexual partner can only infer the other person's status by finding out his or hers first.
To join and get their HIV status into the VCT online database, first they must buy a MTEJA CARD at KES150 (GBP1.30) and send an SMS with the card number and a password of their choice. Then they need to submit a small blood sample to an authorised sample collector. The test results are then added to the database by SMS together with the date when the test was done. The data is held valid for three months after which retesting is required.
VCT Online is able to successfully identify roughly 99% of discordant sexual pairings. Roughly 1% of Kenya’s 1.4 Million HIV +ve citizens cannot be detected because of the limitation of rapid HIV testing – which VCTs use. As more and more people join VCT Online, fewer and fewer new infections will be occurring.
Acccording to a report in The Standard, VCT online is currently being used in Nyanza Province, which has the highest HIV infection in Kenya, at 15 per cent rate compared to national prevalence rate of 7.4 per cent. A national roll-out is being planned for early 2009 and then spread to several other African countries.
VCT online claims to be 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.
The system was set up with help from the Kenya Institute for Capacity Development and Research Limited (KICDR).