by Marie Kauna – EMTV Online, Port Moresby
HIV/AIDS is a global battle affecting many lives worldwide; and has seen collaborative partnership worldwide to curb the issue, and help those living with HIV.
According to World Health Organisation’s progress report, more than 18 million people living with HIV are currently taking antiretroviral therapy (ART), with a similar number unable to access treatment, while a majority unaware of their HIV status.
The statistics indicate those unable to access treatment and those unaware of their status, poses greater challenge to the objective of curbing AIDS and HIV virus.
One of the contributing obstacles that contributes to this and prevents World Health Organisation from implementing its recommendation of having everyone offered antiretroviral therapy is lack of a HIV diagnosis.
Now with the identified obstacle, World Health Organisation has issued new guidelines on HIV self-testing to improve access for those with HIV and the uptake of HIV diagnosis.
HIV self-testing initiative is a way to reach more people that are not diagnosed of HIV. With many unable to access services and unaware of their status, the self-testing initiative will empower individuals, diagnose their status earlier before they become sick, bring needed services closer and provide opportunity for people to do tests.
People will be able to use oral fluids or blood finger pricks to discover their status in a more private and convenient way that will not generate embarrassment. The results will be available within 20 minute or less. For those with positive results, WHO recommend they should receive information, link to counselling and see rapid referral to prevention, treatment and care services.
According to Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, “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”.
Currently, 23 countries have national policies that are supporting the HIV self-testing, while others are developing policies to support the implementation of HIV self-testing.