Govt launches self test kits for cervical cancer

A medical doctor carries testing swabs for cervical cancer. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • The Infectious Diseases Institute has over the years evolved to undertake advanced infectious diseases research and capacity development. 

Makerere University’s Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) has introduced self-testing swabs for cervical cancer as part of measures to ensure early detection of the disease.

Addressing journalists in Kampala yesterday, Dr Aggrey Semeere, a researcher at IDI, said the self-testing swab is simple and can be done at any place where women feel comfortable. 

He said the new procedure is intended to promote cancer screening since most women across the country say the current testing mechanism is uncomfortable.

“The difference with the new initiative is that most ladies aren’t comfortable with being screened so we have to find simple ways of availing them a chance to test themselves and get the cancer treated early,” he said.

“Cervical cancer is treatable and curable. In fact, in the US, you rarely find them [cervical cancer patients], but here in the country, it is the number one common disease among women at the cancer institute,” he added.

He added that they will be showcasing the new innovation during a virtual science fair to be held soon as the institute marks 20 years of existence.

Dr Semeere also confirmed that his team has started carrying out testing fairs for these swabs in the districts of Hoima and Kiboga.

“We are trying out swabs, ladies use the swabs themselves and they bring it to the lab and we detect that virus. If we find the lady has that virus, we can then put them on treatment but these are for early days,” he said.

Currently, Pap smears are used to test for cervical cancer and are done according to a woman’s age.
WebMD recommends that women aged 20 to 30 get a screening every three years, 30 to 65 every three to five years, while aged 65 and older need no further screening if they have had three tests in a row with regular results.

Dr Semeere observed that most cancer testing mechanisms require one to take a tissue sample into the lab, look at it under a microscope and wait for two weeks before they can pick results.

To stop this, he said IDI is coming up with a point of care testing where results return within 60 minutes.

He added that the device for this particular test is in the IDI lab and is undergoing tests in Uganda, Malawi and Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya.

The IDI board chair, Rev Prof Sam Luboga, said their innovations will target more marginalised communities who have limited access to services yet they are the drivers of most infections.

He also encouraged the media to help people understand their various innovations and the benefits that come with them. 


Infectious Diseases Institute has over the years evolved to undertake advanced infectious diseases research and capacity development. 

The institute has established long-term partnerships with stakeholders in Uganda and beyond in diverse programmes such as prevention, care and treatment, research, training, laboratory services, health system strengthening, global health security, and health innovations. 

It currently supports HIV care and treatment for 270,000 people living with HIV in 14 districts including Kampala.