A study was conducted by Nathan Thielman, M.D, Duke University Medical Center to show that free HIV tests are very effective in preventing HIV infections than those which charge a small fee. This also brings in more people towards the testing center and is therefore a very efficient method.
In 2003 a two-week pilot program for free testing was conducted by The Duke researchers. Before that program the people who came to the testing centre were 4 per day but after the free testing program it shoot to 15 per day.
But the number decreased to 7 people per day after the small fee of 1,000 Tanzania shillings or 95 U.S. cents was introduced. It also showed that when 4 people per day were tested the cost was about $170 to avert an HIV infection on the other hand in case of 15 people tested per day the cost was about $92. This cost includes everything required to run a testing program, staff salaries, laboratory supplies and test kits, utilities and office supplies.
Hence the researchers sought additional funding to continue free testing in association with a community-based AIDS service organization in Moshi, Tanzania. The testing centre has tested more than 4,000 people.
The study's results appeared in the American Journal of Public Health. The study was funded by Roche Laboratories; the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health; and awards from the U.S. Department of State Fulbright Program to Nathan Thielman and Helen Chu.
The researchers said that by providing free HIV tests and by testing a large number of people it is easy to make HIV prevention more cost-effective.
The Duke team in association with the local nongovernmental organization KIWAKKUKI, meaning Woman against AIDS in Kilimanjaro in Swahili conducted this research. KIWAKKUKI was founded in 1990 provides home-based case, counseling and information about HIV and orphan care and assistance.
The KIWAKKUKI program asked the Duke University to provide testing against HIV in Tanzania as the HIV infection rate in Tanzania is about 8.8 %. After testing it was found that so far about 16.7 % of those tested at KIWAKKUKI are HIV positive.
The researcher John Crump, M.D., a Duke assistant professor of medicine who works full-time at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre in Tanzania said that people are flocking towards the testing centers as they want to know if they are infected. The reason for these huge crowds to visit the testing centers is that there is cure for HIV with the antiretroviral therapy.
Thielman says that the main aim is to prevent HIV but money is the biggest barrier since free HIV testing and counseling provides good results it should be continued. At the moment for $92 invested in free HIV testing and counseling at an organization such as KIWAKKUKI, an HIV infection can be averted. These testing centers reduce high-risk sexual behavior and prevent HIV transmission and thereby provide treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases and prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission.