HIV self-testing could
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South Africa bears the world's largest burden of HIV with over 6.4 million people living with the virus. The South African government's response to HIV has yielded remarkable results in recent years; over 13 million South Africans tested in a 2012 campaign and over 2 million people are on antiretroviral treatment. However, with an HIV & AIDS and STI National Strategic
Plan aiming to get 80 percent of the population to know their HIV status by 2016, activists and public health policy makers argue that non-invasive HIV self-testing should be incorporated into the country HIV Counseling and Testing [HCT] portfolios. In-depth qualitative interviews (N = 12) with key stakeholders were conducted from June to July 2013 in South Africa. These included two government officials, four non-governmental stakeholders, two donors, three academic researchers, and one international stakeholder. All stakeholders were involved in HIV prevention and treatment and influenced HCT policy and research in South Africa and beyond. The interviews explored: interest in HIV self-testing; potential distribution channels for HIV self-tests to target groups; perception of requirements for diagnostic technologies that would be most amenable to HIV self-testing and opinions on barriers and opportunities for HIV-linkage to care after receiving positive test results. While there is currently no HIV self-testing policy in South Africa, and several barriers exist, participants in the study expressed enthusiasm and willingness for scale-up and urgent need for further research, planning, establishment of HIV Self-testing policy and programming to complement existing
facility-based and community-based HIV testing systems. Introduction of HIV self-testing could have far-reaching positive effects on holistic HIV testing uptake, giving people autonomy to decide which approach they want to use for HIV testing, early diagnosis, treatment and care for HIV particularly among hard-to reach groups, including men.