Over 18 million HIV positive people are currently taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) with as many still unable to access the life-saving treatment, the WHO said, issuing new guidelines on self-testing to improve access to HIV diagnosis.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) report issued on Wednesday (the eve of World AIDS Day), said lack of HIV diagnosis is a major obstacle in implementing the WHO’s recommendation that everyone with HIV should be offered ART.
Today 40 per cent of all people with HIV, numbering over 14 million, remain unaware of their status. Many of these are people at higher risk of HIV infection who often find it difficult to access existing testing services, it said.
“Millions of people with HIV are still missing out on life -saving treatment, which can also prevent HIV transmission to others,” WHO Director-General Margaret 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,” she said.
WHO has released new guidelines stressing on HIV self- testing to improve access to and uptake of HIV diagnosis.
HIV self-testing means people can use oral fluid or blood — finger-pricks to discover their status in a private and convenient setting, the WHO release said.
Results are ready within 20 minutes or less. Those with positive results are advised to seek confirmatory tests at health clinics.
WHO recommended that they receive information and links to counselling as well as rapid referral to prevention, treatment and care services.
HIV self-testing is a way to reach more people with undiagnosed HIV and represents a step forward to empower individuals, diagnose people earlier before they become sick, bring services closer to where people live, and create demand for HIV testing. This is particularly important for those facing barriers to accessing existing services, the report said.
Between 2005 and 2015 the proportion of people with HIV learning of their status increased from 12 per cent to 60 per cent globally, the release added.
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