30 January 2019 | Press releases

Unitaid joins Elton John Foundation and CIFF to drive HIV self-testing in Kenya

London –  Unitaid has joined the Elton John Aids Foundation (EJAF), the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and local partners to fund a campaign to persuade young people in Kenya to screen for HIV and get treatment if they test positive.

Mounting evidence shows that men, especially those in their twenties and thirties, are not accessing HIV testing and treatment in nearly high enough numbers, putting their own health at risk and fueling the spread of the virus among adolescent girls and young women.

Unitaid will contribute $1.5 million to a Challenge Fund co-financed with EJAF and CIFF that will invest $6 million over the next three years in innovative ways to get young men to access HIV self-tests. The project will be implemented by Population Services International (PSI).

Kenya is set to become the third largest HIV self-testing market in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020 and was also one of the first countries to adopt a national policy embracing the approach.

The agreement was signed at the AIDSfree Cities Global Forum, held at the House of Lords in London, by Unitaid’s Executive Director, Lelio Marmora, and EJAF’s Executive Director, Anne Aslett. UK International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt welcomed the agreement in a speech at the forum.

“One in four people living with HIV do not know they have the virus, but evidence now shows that self-testing can contribute to changing this reality,” said Lelio Marmora. The Challenge Fund combines Unitaid’s expertise in creating markets for innovative health products with the know-how EJAF and CIFF bring in communications, branding and marketing.

Unitaid’s pioneering investments in HIV self-testing in Southern Africa – The Self-Testing Africa (STAR) Initiative – have produced strong evidence that self-testing is a highly effective and accessible way for young people to find out their status. Self-testing is now being introduced in West Africa.

“Young men have the potential to be a big part of the HIV solution and to play a role in the global mission to get to zero HIV transmissions,” said Anne Aslett.  ” Through this collaboration, we are giving them the means and the tools to change infection rates in Kenya.”

The initiative springs from the MenStar Coalition and will tap into the best available marketing strategies to reach many more people at risk and persuade them to screen for HIV using self-testing kits.

Persuading young Kenyan men to use HIV self-testing kits is important to boost demand and sustain affordable prices in the region and beyond.  The Challenge Fund will develop and implement creative marketing strategies that can be adapted and replicated in other countries, creating a ripple effect.

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