HIV: WHO's new guidance on self-testing ahead of World AIDS Day
Zee Media Bureau
HIV self-testing means people can use oral fluid or blood-finger-pricks to discover their status in a private and convenient setting. Results are ready within 20 minutes or less. Those with positive results are advised to seek confirmatory tests at health clinics. WHO recommends they receive information and links to counselling as well as rapid referral to prevention, treatment and care services.
According to a new WHO progress report, lack of an HIV diagnosis is a major obstacle to implementing the Organization’s recommendation that everyone with HIV should be offered antiretroviral therapy (ART).
The report reveals that more than 18 million people with HIV are currently taking ART, and a similar number is still unable to access treatment, the majority of which are unaware of their HIV positive status.
It says that 40% of all people with HIV (over 14 million) remain unaware of their status.
"Millions of people with HIV are still missing out on life-saving treatment, which can also prevent HIV transmission to others," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.
"HIV self-testing should open the door for many more people to know their HIV status and find out how to get treatment and access prevention services."
WHO says that up to 70 % of partners of people with HIV are also HIV positive and many of them are not currently getting tested.
The new WHO guidelines recommend ways to help HIV positive people notify their partners about their status, and also encourage them to get tested.
"By offering HIV self-testing, we can empower people to find out their own HIV status and also to notify their partners and encourage them to get tested as well," said Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of WHO’s Department of HIV.
Self-testing has been shown to nearly double the frequency of HIV testing among men who have sex with men. Also recent studies in Kenya found that male partners of pregnant women had twice the uptake of HIV testing when offered self-testing compared with standard testing.
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