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HIV self-testing promoted

Wednesday November 30th, 2016

Increased self-testing could go some way to protecting the millions of people with HIV are still missing out on life-saving treatment, experts say today.

The World Health Organisation said it was promoting self-testing as part of its campaigning for World Aids Day tomorrow (1 December).

Over 18 million people with HIV are currently taking antiretroviral therapy, but a similar number are unable to access treatment as they are unaware of their HIV positive status, says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO director-general.

New guidelines are now being released by the WHO on HIV self-testing, to boost access to antiretroviral therapy and to reduce the risk of further transmission.

Dr Chan said: "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."

The guidance explains that self-testing uses oral fluid or blood finger-pricks to give a result within 20 minutes, in privacy. A confirmatory test at a health clinic is recommended for those with a positive result on the self-test. These individuals should receive information and links to counselling as well as rapid referral to prevention, treatment and care services, WHO recommends.

Overall, an estimated 60% of people with HIV globally are aware of their status, meaning that 80% of all people diagnosed with HIV are receiving antiretroviral therapy. But many people in at-risk groups are unaware of their HIV status, including adolescent girls and young women in East and Southern Africa, who are up to eight times more likely to become infected with HIV than their male counterparts.

Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, from WHO, said: "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.

"Self-testing will be particularly relevant for those people who may find it difficult to access testing in clinical settings."

* Meanwhile European agencies said that up to 14% of people with HIV are unaware of their status.

Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show that 29,747 new cases of infection were recorded in 2015 - a small reduction on previous year.

The agency backed WHO calls for improved access to testing.

Tags: Flu & Viruses | World Health

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