Kenya begins mass roll-out of HIV self-testing and PrEP

09 May 2017

Kenya embraces new HIV testing technologies to scale-up HIV prevention efforts in the country.

Screenshot of Kenyan HIV self-testing website 'Be Self Sure'
A screenshot of the new 'Be Self Sure' campaign website.

In a bid to increase the numbers of people testing for HIV and knowing of their status, the Kenyan government have started promoting HIV self-testing. The new campaign also promotes pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to key populations of people deemed at-risk of contracting HIV. 

The ‘Be Self Sure’ campaign was launched last week (3 May) by the Kenyan Ministry of Health, it includes a website with information on how to find self-testing kits, videos on how to carry out the self-tests, and a map for finding healthcare centres should you need a confirmation HIV test, or want to speak to a doctor about HIV prevention and PrEP. There is also an HIV helpline which is open 12 hours a day. 

Around 1.2 million people are living with HIV in Kenya, of which an estimated  400,000 are unaware of their status and are therefore not accessing life-saving treatment. 

Increasing access to HIV testing is a vital part of HIV programming and the gateway to the HIV treatment cascade. Self-testing has emerged as a new strategy to breach the testing gap. 

In Kenya, two different types of HIV tests will be made available to purchase – the OraQuick saliva swab self-test, and the INSTI blood sample self-test. The testing kits can be purchased for around $8 a test from local pharmacies listed on the ‘Be Self Sure’ campaign website. Thanks to a public-private partnership agreement orchestrated by the Kenyan government, this price is a significantly lower than the market price.. 

It is hoped that the self-test kits will be made free of charge at all public health facilities from July 2017.

The campaign will also promote PrEP for groups most at-risk of contracting HIV, including young people, mixed-status couples, people who inject drugs and sex workers. These drugs will be free at certain health centres in the country, and will also be made available at a cost of $36 at private hospitals or over the counter at pharmacies. 

Jackson Kioko, Director of Medical Services at the Kenyan Ministry of Health said: “With the launch, Kenya becomes the first country to undertake a national roll-out of HIV self-testing and the second in Africa to bring to scale pre-exposure prophylaxis for prevention of HIV infection for those at high risk. Kenya is committed to revitalising HIV prevention, while ensuring access to treatment.”

Written by Caitlin Mahon

Content Specialist - HIV & Sexual Health