Men More Inclined to Test for HIV When Approached by Male Peers- Study

An HIV study conducted by the Busitema University Faculty of Health Science has proposed a groundbreaking approach that could effectively combat the AIDS epidemic within Uganda’s fishing communities.

This was revealed by Associate Professor Joseph KB Matovu while delivering part of the research findings which was dubbed Peer-led HIV Self-testing Intervention for men at a brief function held at the Grand Global Hotel in Kampala. The peer-led HIV self-testing intervention involved selected community members distributing self-testing kits.

Fishing communities have long been notorious hotspots for HIV transmission due to their remote locations and limited access to healthcare services and HIV awareness programs. The research was conducted on two fishing sites; Kalangala where men contribute 58% of the population, and Buvuma where men contribute 60% of the population.

Speaking to this publication on the sidelines, Professor Matovu who led the research explained that due to the growing difficulty in persuading men to undergo HIV testing through conventional methods, they sought innovative alternatives.

The research which involved a sample of 400 men ensured that each individual received a minimum of two testing kits, amounting to a total distribution of 800 Oraquick HIV testing kits that were distributed to them by their fellow peers which to him yielded results.

“Out of the 800 kits distributed to peers, an impressive 782 kits were utilized for testing.” Professor Matovu said  

Professor Matovu further revealed that among those who received the kits, a stunning 88% expressed a preference for peer distribution over other options. This preference underscored the success of this unique approach to HIV testing within the fishing communities of Kalangala and Buvuma.

“Peer-led self-testing intervention is feasible and can be implemented in a fishing community. It is highly acceptable and identifies a sizeable proportion of men living with HIV” Professor Matovu said

Geoffrey Tasi, the programs officer for HIV testing service at the Ministry of Health said that they were trying to determine how they can effectively reach out to fishermen with HIV testing services and the study has yielded remarkable results.

“The study has shown that the peer approach is very effective in reaching the fishing communities, especially the men, they believe in their peers because they have the same characteristics, same lifestyle, same risks and understand each other, they found it easy, the distribution of the kits is very high compared to if you told them to for to a health facility.” He said

“It is also convenient because they do not spend any money to go to the facility where the kits are. The peer is the one who picks the kit and takes it to one hundred others.” He added

Meanwhile, the study also revealed that 14.5% of individuals who used the kits were already living with HIV, while 31% were newly diagnosed cases with Kalangala having more preference 19.5 compared to Buvuma with 9.5%.

“Kalangala is more popular and therefore has more lines going in, Kalangala has beaches and therefore attracts more people including those who are positive.” Professor Matovu said while justifying why Kalangala had more cases

Furthermore, the research highlighted the superiority of oral testing kits, particularly among individuals who were averse to traditional blood-based testing methods. Professor Matovu corroborated these findings, emphasizing that research had consistently shown that many individuals experienced heightened anxiety when using blood-based testing kits.

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