Night HIV testing gains popularity

Amon Mpofu

THE National Aids Council (Nac) strategy of Moonlight HIV testing targeting key populations who usually shy away from voluntary HIV testing and counselling has reportedly yielded positive results.

Nac Monitoring and Evaluation Director Amon Mpofu revealed that they had witnessed a huge turnout during night testing programmes.

“Moonlight testing has increased the positivity yield and participation in HIV testing. Mainly targeting key populations namely sex workers, long distance truck drivers and artisanal miners, it is important for everyone to know their status as one of our objectives is reducing new infections and saving   lives.

“With the high response we are getting from Moonlight Programme, this will help in curbing new HIV infections in the country, towards ending Aids by 2030,” he said.

The Moonlight Programme is a strategy to reach out to everyone even those with busy schedules though engaging in risky behaviours.

“Knowing one’s HIV status is the foundation to HIV treatment, care and support. For unknown reasons, it turns out some people are comfortable with testing at night and with the results we are getting, we have taken our services to taverns and music shows to lure them to access health services,” said Mpofu.

In a bid to curb new HIV infections in the country, towards ending Aids by 2030, Nac will also engage transport operators, prophets and traditional healers.

“We want to get into partnerships with commuter omnibus operators so they can distribute condoms to the commuting public. We are looking forward to a situation where we will have condom dispensers in commuter omnibuses,” he said.

He revealed that efforts to engage prophets and traditional healers were on the cards as some people delayed seeking help after being misled by prophets and traditional healers into believing that they could cure Aids.

Nac has introduced many other interventions such as self-testing and index testing to ensure that all people know their status and they do follow-ups on HIV positive persons’ sexual partners, offering them testing services.

Some of the programmes which have been successful in saving lives by making sure that those who are positive do not default on medication include Community Art Refill Groups (CARG) and Family Art Refill Group (FARG).

These are support groups where members of the group take turns to collect medication and always check on each other.