The stigmatization and discrimination associated with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, have made sexual health test in Nigeria a harrowing experience.
SlideSafe, a Lagos-based startup is aware of this, and is now trying to give the Nigerian people who find it difficult to go to public clinics for sexually related issues a kind of reprieve with the introduction self-testing kits for HIV, Hepatitis B and Syphilis on a strictly anonymous basis, as well as contraceptives for men and women.
Users can order the packages through the company website for between 2,000 to 7,500Naira, and then perform simple blood tests in their home, receiving the results in 15 minutes.
SlideSafe provides provides a step-by-guide to the process, as well as counseling before and after the test for users who are often nervous.
SlideSafe packages are brightly-colored and give no indication of their contents.
“You could have it in front of your mother and she wouldn’t know,” company founder Florida Uzoaru told CNN.
The major challenge for the company is to earn public trust, according to Uzoaru, who has a degree in public health policy and a background at healthcare NGOs.
“People are very sensitive about sexual health and want to know you can be trusted,” she says. “Trust comes from people knowing you are reliable, but our customers don’t want to tell other people about us because of the stigma.”
SlideSafe which is still in its early days has sold around 600 kits in the Lagos area. But Uzoaru has big plans to expand into new cities, to test for more diseases, and to establish a dedicated sexual health clinic.
The Slide Safe prototypes are focused on two STIs: HIV and Hepatitis B Virus. These infections according to the company are both difficult and very expensive to manage.
People infected with Hepatitis B often do not have symptoms and therefore can remain unaware of their status until it is very late.
Statistics from National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS, NACA puts the national prevalence rate of HIV at 3.4%. Statistics from the Federal Ministry of Health puts the national prevalence of Hepatitis B at 11.0%, with most of 20 million of infected Nigeria unaware of their status thereby possibly transmitting the infection to unsuspecting partners. Prevention or early detection is most critical for both sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Slide Safe is a product of MerDroits, health tech social enterprise that provides online access to affordable and judgment-free sexual health consultation and contraceptives, according to the company.
MerDroits also promotes safe sex through sexuality education programs, What Research Says and MerDroits60.