MedAccess congratulates Uganda’s efforts to increase access to HIV self-testing
13 October 2023
Uganda has become the first country to adopt HIV self-tests procured under the terms of MedAccess’ volume guarantee to Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech (Wondfo). The decision marks a step forward in the country’s efforts to ensure people know their HIV status and can access treatment where needed.
In 2022, MedAccess, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Wondfo announced an agreement to make Wondfo’s HIV self-test available for $1. The price makes Wondfo’s test the most affordable World Health Organization prequalified HIV self-test on the market.
At an event held yesterday in Kampala, Hon. Jane Ruth Aceng, Minister of Health of the Republic of Uganda, said that the country’s decision to include Wondfo’s HIV self-test into its testing portfolio underlined the country’s commitment to improving access to testing for all people.
“Today, we are here to launch the Wondfo HIV self-test kit which has been demonstrated to offer high quality HIV test results here in Uganda. The kit has been evaluated at Uganda Virus Research Institute and is an additional tool in our campaign for HIV testing which is key for HIV prevention and control interventions”, said Hon. Jane Ruth Aceng. “We shall emphasise the combination of routine rapid HIV testing algorithms, together with HIV self-testing, to ensure that we access services to all who need them. Whereas we have done well with HIV testing in the general population, there are sub populations which remain behind. These include children, adolescents, men and key populations. Self-testing will enable us to reach out to these groups at substantial risk of infection and those who may be in hard-to-reach areas who might not regularly access routine services.”
“Today’s event marks not just a product launch, but a commitment from Wondfo,” said Leon Lim, General Manager of Wondfo. “Our HIV self-test has earned certifications from both WHO and the Uganda Virus Research Institute, ensuring exceptional performance and reliability. We’re not merely suppliers; we’re dedicated supporters of Uganda’s HIV initiatives. Looking ahead, we plan to expand the self-testing kits nationally and regionally, engage in training programs, and collaborate with partners for targeted social campaigns, reaching high-risk groups. We firmly believe in making diagnostic tools more affordable, hence our HIV self-test kit is priced at just $1.”
“We welcome efforts by the Uganda Ministry of Health and the country’s AIDS Control Programme to increase access to self-testing for people at risk of HIV,” said Dr Michelle Teo, Chief Investment Officer at MedAccess. “Our guarantees are designed to secure lower prices and enable countries to reach more people with needed health products. It is gratifying to see Uganda benefitting from this partnership with Wondfo, and we look ahead to other countries following soon.”
Benefits of self-testing include:
- Increasing access to HIV testing for populations with the greatest gaps in testing: Some people may face stigma and discrimination if they seek a HIV test at a clinic. Self-testing can avoid this and increase access to testing for people. The tests can be distributed by a range of people including health workers, community leaders, peers, and partners.
- Reducing demands on healthcare workers: Distributing HIV self-tests within health facilities can reduce the burden on providers at understaffed clinics. While provider-led testing is and will continue to be a cornerstone of HIV testing, self-tests can significantly increase the efficiency of and access to testing services by reducing the time required per person tested compared to conventional testing.
- Increasing ease of HIV testing: Self-tests are safe, easy to use, and provide accurate results in less than 30 minutes. With expanded HIV self-testing, people will be able to collect HIV self-tests from more and more convenient locations and can then test themselves and read their results in private, when and where they want. This is especially valuable for people at risk of HIV who need more frequent testing as part of HIV prevention programmes. This is timely as WHO releases new guidance on the use of HIV self-testing to support greater access to pre-exposure prophylaxis PrEP services that prevent transmission of HIV.
Building on the work of governments, Unitaid’s STAR Initiative, PEPFAR, Global Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation’s (CIFF’s) long-standing support for HIV self-testing, MedAccess projects that improved access to self-testing through this volume guarantee will increase testing and treatment coverage, leading to an estimated 8.1 million additional people accessing testing in low- and middle-income countries.