UNAIDS have released a new report ahead of World Aids Day titled ‘Knoweldge is Power’ which illustrates the importance of improving HIV testing around the world.
The report demonstrates progress made against AIDS due to treatment and early detection, calling on countries to increase their efforts to tackle the virus.
Statistics highlight that in 2015, only 66 percent of people living with the virus knew their status compared to 75 percent in 2017. In addition, the number of “virally suppressed” individuals with HIV has increased from 38 percent in 2015 to 47 percent in 2017. However, significant progress still needs to be achieved
However, access to viral suppression is not equal across the world. In some areas accessing testing can be a significant challenge.The report highlights that progress towards the 90-90-90 testing and treatment target is strongest in eastern and southern Africa, Latin America and high-income countries.
The Asia-Pacific region will need to increase its testing and treatment programme according to the report to achieve the 90-90-90 target.
The 90-90-90 target states that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
Similarly, many women living with HIV face violence, which makes them less likely to adhere to treatment, resulting in lower viral suppression and poor clinical outcomes.
Legal barriers also remain in many countries, with the criminalisation of same-sex acts and sex work having a key role in limiting access to treatment. Entry and stay restrictions on HIV positive people also present a barrier to testing.
In many healthcare settings, confidentiality issues occur at alarming frequency.
UNAIDS’ report stated that:
“When news of one’s HIV-positive status result may lead to rejection, violence or criminal prosecution, the consequences of taking an HIV test or regularly visiting a health facility for medicine refills or viral load testing can appear worse than the consequences of avoiding these services.”
Michel Sibde, Executive Director of UNAIDS commented:
“To reach the millions who are not virally suppressed, we need viral load monitoring to be as available in Lilongwe as in London. HIV testing and viral load testing should be universal”.
The UN General Assembly adopted a Political Declaration on Ending AIDS in 2016. The Member States agreed to reform legislation that could reinforce stigmas against people with HIV or AIDS.
While there has been remarkable innovations created within the last few years to transform the AIDS response, technology is not enough to ensure that people have the HIV testing services that they need.
Michel Sibde also mentioned:
“HIV testing gives people the knowledge they need to make choices—choices on the right options for treatment and prevention. Knowledge really is power. The power of people to determine the right options to keep healthy. And the power to stay well and live long and productive lives. Let’s ensure that everyone has that power.”
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Photo Credit: UNAIDS