Today, 40 per cent of all people with HIV (over 14 million) remain unaware of their status.
New Delhi: In a significant breakthrough, the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the use of self testing for HIV, empowering people to know their HIV status in privacy and get treatment.
Ahead of International AIDS Day on December 1, the WHO released the new guidelines on HIV self-testing aiming to improve access and uptake of HIV diagnosis.
Home to third highest number of HIV patients, India is yet to react on the new guidelines as it believes in testing to be accompanied with pre counselling and post counselling.
“Millions of people with HIV are still missing out on life-saving treatment, which can also prevent HIV transmission to others,” said WHO director-general Margaret Chan in a news release. Adding that “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”.
According to the WHO, lack of an HIV diagnosis is a major obstacle to implementing the Organisation’s recommendation that everyone with HIV should be offered antiretroviral therapy.
The report says more than 18 million people with HIV are currently on ART, but an equal number of people are still unable to access treatment, with many being unaware of their HIV positive status. “Today, 40 per cent of all people with HIV (over 14 million) remain unaware of their status,” it added.
Significantly, as per the international experts, the new guidelines are likely to help countries scale up implementation of HIV self-testing and assisted HIV partner notification services. HIV self-testing involves the use of oral Fluid or finger pricks to determine an individual’s personal HIV status in a private setting.
Importantly, the WHO found evidence that self-testing more than doubles testing uptake among men who have sex with men and male partners of women who are pregnant. “Self-testing has been shown to nearly double the frequency of HIV testing among men who have sex with men, and 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,” the WHO said
Twenty-three countries currently have national regulations that support HIV self-testing, and many others are in the process of developing policies but wide-scale implementation of HIV self-testing remains limited.