One should access to quality HIV testing and can know their status is critical to preventing and controlling HIV/AIDS.
Across the WHO South-East Asia Region, as across the world, many people living with HIV (PLHIV) lack access to testing and hence do not know their HIV status.
This inhibits access to treatment and enhances the likelihood of AIDS-related complications and death. It also allows the virus to spread.
In recent years Member States have made strong progress in all aspects of HIV/AIDS prevention and control. Between 2010 and 2017 AIDS-related deaths declined by 40%.
Between 2000 and 2017 new infections were more than halved, from 318 000 to 157 000. Still, an estimated 3.5 million people Region-wide currently live with the disease, with around 51% receiving Antiretroviral treatment (ART) and an estimated 36% completely unaware of their status. This must be remedied as a priority.
Fundamental to ensuring all people have access to quality HIV testing is harnessing the many innovations now available. Novel approaches such as community-based testing by lay providers, community-led testing and HIV self-testing are vital tools to help people know their status.
To make this happen, countries must ensure WHO prequalified HIV self-test kits are registered with drug regulators and are readily accessible. They must also remove all structural barriers to access testing, including the need for parental consent for adolescents, for example.
Communities themselves must be encouraged to embrace HIV testing. This can be done via communication campaigns that strive to eliminate the stigma and fear surrounding the disease, and which tailor messaging according to key populations.
This is especially important given nearly two-thirds of new infections in the Region occur among key populations, who are at a significantly higher risk of contracting the virus than the general population.
As recent regional think tank meetings have stressed, empowering key populations to harness ‘Aids Assets’ will help prevent, test and treat HIV, thereby keeping them safe and reducing the disease’s prevalence.
While championing the need for each person to know their status the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day as the WHO TREAT ALL guidelines make clear, knowledge alone will not solve the problem: All cases should be provided free treatment as soon after diagnosis as possible, especially given WHO removed limitations on the eligibility of receiving ART in 2016.
It is to the credit of each of the Region’s Member States that the WHO TREAT ALL guidelines have been universally adopted, with each of them striving to reach the 90-90-90 target by 2020.
To that end, WHO will continue to support Member States via technical and operational assistance as they work to ensure that by 2020 at least 90% of PLHIV in the Region know their status; at least 90% of those who know their status are on treatment; and at least 90% of those on treatment have suppressed viral loads.
By sustaining present gains, accelerating progress, and harnessing the full power of innovation, these outcomes are within our grasp. They can and must be reached.
World Aids Day, which falls on 1 December, as the theme this year is to encouraging people to get tested, raising awareness about the importance of knowing one’s status and calling for the removal of all barriers to accessing HIV testing. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the first World AIDS Day.
Each year, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) sets a theme for the campaign. The theme for this year is important because a UNAIDS report states that 9.4 million people living with HIV do not know they are living with the virus and urgently need to be linked to HIV testing and treatment services.
The report, however, warned that by 2030, around 80 adolescents will be dying of AIDS every day if “we don’t accelerate progress in preventing transmission.”
Currently, three million persons 19 years and younger, are infected with HIV worldwide. Two million new infections could be averted by 2030 if global targets are met this means providing adequate access to HIV prevention, care and treatment services, and testing and diagnoses.
Further, the report cites a global target reduction in the number of HIV-infected children by 2030 to 1.4 million, while the projected number today of 1.9 million, shows that the world is off-track by around 500,000.
The major shortfalls show slow progress in prevention among the young, and a failure to address the key drivers of the epidemic. Many infected children and adolescents are unaware of their illness, and even when tested HIV-positive, rarely adhere to proper treatment.
World AIDS Day originated at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention. Since then, every year United Nations agencies, governments and civil society join together to campaign around specific themes related to AIDS.>