Kenya is set to launch a HIV self-testing electronic vending machines (EVMs) in December,2020 targeting men who lag behind in testing compared to women.

Speaking virtually in Nairobi, Dr Catherine Ngugi, Head Division of the National AIDS & STI Control Programme – NASCOP  said the launch will be held during World AIDS Day on 1 December scheduled in Kajiado County.

“My department has been working with other organizations to introduce self-testing as a way to enhance HIV testing uptake and as part of the efforts to scale up the use of self-tests in the private sector,” Dr Ngugi said.

Dr Ngugi was speaking during the Fourth African Conference of Science Journalists in Nairobi. She said the machine will function just the way one can buy an item from a vending machine.

“Data from the ministry of health shows that testing rates among men lags behind in comparison to women, in response to this Nascop has partnered with other stakeholders to pilot the program,” she said.

Globally, Kenya has one of the largest HIV epidemics with about 1.5 million people living with HIV. Of these about 1.4 million are adults while 106,807 are pediatrics aged 0-14 years according to Kenya HIV estimates 2020.

She added that if the project is successful, it will be rolled out countrywide.

According to her, the self-testing kit will be part of a series of safer and more effective treatment regiments. “It will be followed by full implementation of dispensing of three months or more of HIV treatment,” she added.

“HIV diagnosis services must target those who aren’t easily reachable or have less such as children, young people, men and key populations, the government is now investing more in innovative testing approaches,” Dr Ngugi said.

She said the use of EVMs in HIV care and treatment programmes was not new noting that condom vending machines have been implemented globally in public restrooms, petrol stations and campus halls of residence.