Major decline in HIV tests worries authorities
BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
THE number of people undergoing HIV test has halved since last year raising concerns for health authorities.
Solomon Islands Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) data to date is 30 confirmed cases from conventional HIV test.
15 have died. Of the remaining cases, only 12 are under radar and receiving treatment. The other three have since left the country, and authorities have lost contact.
According to report from Dr Jackson V Rakei the Director of STI/HIV UNIT under the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS), more testing needs to be done to detect more cases.
“Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) prevalence rate in the country is high, thus HIV cases should also be high as shown in studies,” explained Rakei.
“This equates to more risky sexual behaviours being practised (sex without condoms).”
He clarified that other means of HIV transmission are low in the country like intravenous drugs, tattooing, blood transfusions and HIV positive mother to child transmission when being pregnant, however, he strongly stated the need to do more testing owing to the country’s high STIs rate.
“Voluntary testing is low in the country due to stigma and discrimination so this year we are looking at doing more PICT (Provider Initiated Counselling Test.).
“More awareness needs to be done but we lack the funds (donors and SIG) as well. Apart from that, the ongoing distribution of condoms is maintained but we are unsure of whether they are being used at all during sex.”
Rakei elaborated that Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association (SIPPA) must be commended for they are the only NGO working with them in their fight against HIV.
All other NGO’s (OXFAM, World Vision, Save the Children, ADRA, etc) have realigned their priorities to other humanitarian needs
“Churches and women’s groups are also with us,” added Rakei.
“Our goal is to do more testing and increase the coverage of testing nationwide, starting them on treatment once tested positive.
“It has been two years since Solomon Islands last positive case but it could be a time bomb on our hands.
“HIV is not curable but treatable so if a HIV patient takes their medications strictly (adherence) everyday, their life span is like that of a non-HIV.”
The first case in the country was in 1994 (an expat) and the last case in 2016 has already passed on.