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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 6, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 01
Kenya forced to recall 1 million HIV test kits
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Kenya forced to recall 1 million HIV test kits

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Kenyan health officials have announced that they are recalling 1 million HIV test kits because they are not accurate.

Dr. Shahnaz Sharif, Kenya's director of Public Health and Sanitation, said on December 29 that the World Health Organization (WHO) had alerted Kenyan officials that half the test results from the suspect kits could be wrong.

According to BBC News, the so-called Standard Diagnostic Bioline (SDB) tests are widely used by countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The recalled kits were manufactured in South Korea.

'The discrepancy rate was about 50% and the WHO has asked all countries to put on hold use of Bioline [HIV tests],' he said.

'About 50% of positives may have been reported as negative, and 50% of negatives as positive.'

There is no reason for panic, Sharif asserted, because the recalled kits are only one of three methods used to diagnose HIV in the East African country.

'People are really worried and asking if it is going to affect them. The answer is no,' Sharif said.

A 'tie-breaker' test is normally conducted if there are conflicting results, he added.

Like most sub-Saharan African countries, Kenya is trying to cope with the HIV/AIDS pandemic. More than 1 million Kenyans are reportedly HIV-positive.

The international AIDS charity Avert says Kenya has increased HIV testing sharply in the past decade, following a government-backed campaign to create more awareness about the illness.

In 2000, Kenya had only three voluntary testing and counseling sites, but the number had risen to nearly 1,000 by 2007, Avert says.

In November 2009, the Kenyan government launched an intensive campaign to test one million people for HIV.

Minister of Public Health Beth Mugo said that many Kenyans are dying because they simply do not know they are HIV-positive and therefore are not getting treatment.

People living with HIV face a heavy social stigma, however, and even taking an HIV test can be seen as a sign of sexual promiscuity.

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