Last month, Universal Love Alliance in Uganda began a new virus testing program. But instead of testing for coronavirus, this program is for preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Twelve participated in a ULA training about HIV and about how to use HIV self-test kits.
Doctors and clinical officers from a local hospital provided the technical training. “The key message in the opening session was that HIV is a virus, not a death sentence,” says Samson Turinawe, ULA Director.
Other sessions discussed safer sex, including condom use, and how to use pre- and post-exposure protection against HIV. PrEP is a pill that can be used by women and men to prevent HIV infection before (a high-risk sexual encounter). However, PrEP does not prevent transmission of other STI. PEP can be taken after a high-risk sexual encounter or needle-stick injury (within a limited time period of 72 hours).
After lunch, the doctors held a practical session on how to use HIV self-test kits. Self-testing is an important option for people who are either unable to get to a clinic, or who fear judgement and stigma if they are known to be going in for an HIV test. During this session the participants tested themselves. They also learned how to test others and how to train others to use the HIV self-test kits.
There is a further need to expand this program to reach youth in the communities. Because ULA is seen as friendly, their team will be able to reach youth for testing, which traditional hospitals have struggled to do. So far, ULA has helped test 72 people with the self-test kits.
“Our attendees are people from the LGBTI community,” explains Samson. “We hosted the training in the ULA offices, which allowed them to feel safe. There was no fear or panic. Our participants were happy and felt appreciated.”
SIA supports ULA with general operating funding, so that they can spend their time running programs like these instead of fundraising.