Painless, private, preferred: The rise of oral HIV testing among young adults




By Dr. S.K.Arimi

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in how young people approach health screenings, particularly for HIV. The emergence of oral non-invasive HIV tests represents more than just a technological advancement; it signifies a change in the mindset of the younger generation towards health awareness and self-care.

One of the most significant advantages of oral non-invasive tests is their simplicity and comfort. Young people, who often have a phobia or discomfort with needles and the sight of blood, find oral swab tests less intimidating. This non-invasive method eliminates the physical discomfort associated with traditional blood tests, making it a more appealing option for regular health check-ups.

According to the National Syndemic Diseases Control Council (NSDCC), an estimated 1.4 million people are living with HIV in Kenya, and today’s youth value privacy, especially when it comes to health matters. Oral tests offer the discretion that they seek. Many of these tests are available over-the-counter, allowing individuals to conduct the test in the privacy of their homes. This level of control and confidentiality is particularly important for a sensitive issue like HIV testing, where the fear of stigma and judgment can be a significant barrier to getting tested.

In an age of instant gratification, the quick results provided by oral HIV tests resonate with young people. These tests can deliver results in as little as 20 minutes, a feature that aligns well with the fast-paced lifestyle of today’s youth. The immediacy of results not only provides quick peace of mind but also facilitates faster decision-making in terms of seeking treatment and advice.

The availability and ease of use of oral tests have an educational aspect. They serve as a tool for raising awareness about HIV among young people. The process of self-testing can demystify the testing procedure, making young people more informed and responsible about their sexual health.

Regular HIV testing is crucial, yet many young people avoid it due to fear, inconvenience, or lack of awareness. Oral non-invasive tests lower these barriers, encouraging more frequent testing. Regular self-testing can significantly impact public health, especially in controlling and preventing the spread of HIV.

The preference for oral non-invasive HIV tests among young people is a positive sign. It indicates a growing consciousness about personal health and a willingness to engage in practices that were previously avoided due to fear or discomfort. This shift is not just about convenience, it is about empowerment and taking proactive steps towards health and well-being.

As we move forward, it is essential to continue promoting and improving access to such testing methods. Efforts should also be made in education and destigmatizing HIV testing, ensuring that young people are not just aware of these tests but also understand the importance of regular health screenings in their lives.

(S.K.Arimi is the CEO of Medionics Healthcare).

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