HIV Testing in Kenya Could Decrease Following Study About Rapid Tests, Health Minister Says
Kenya's Health Minster Beth Mugo on Monday said that she is concerned HIV testing could decrease in the country following a recent study about rapid tests, Reuters reports. Recent media reports have focused on an October 2008 study in the East African Medical Journal that found a high error rate in the use of a single rapid HIV test, according to Mugo. The East African Medical Journal report, which received media coverage in Kenya over the weekend, found that using a single rapid test could lead to false positives. The study said that HIV-negative people could be told mistakenly that they are HIV-positive if testing centers do not adhere to national guidelines, according to Reuters.
Reuters reports that some health experts in places such as Kenya recommend using at least two different rapid tests to guard against false-positive results. Although the study did not examine whether testing centers are following national guidelines, it was "enough to scare Kenyans and force officials to reassure the public testing was accurate," Reuters reports. "These media reports have caused anxiety and may have a negative impact on the ongoing campaign aimed at encouraging Kenyans to know their HIV status," Mugo said.
Mugo and Omu Anzala of the University of Nairobi, who was involved with the study, during a press conference said that Kenya's policy is to conduct serial testing with three different rapid tests. Anzala said that it is not clear if all testing centers are following the guidelines. He added, "There was a tendency in some quarters to rely on a single test" (Bevege, Reuters, 3/16). Mugo added, "Our HIV counseling and testing services are of high standards and provide accurate information. ... As a country, we shall strive to continue to adopt new HIV testing technologies that are appropriate to our needs" (Mwaniki, Daily Nation, 3/16).