On the eve of World AIDS Day, the World Health Organisation, for the first time, is promoting the use of self-testing to diagnose an individual’s HIV status.
The HIV self-test can be undertaken in the privacy of one’s home, just the way one tests the blood sugar levels. Using the HIV kit, the test can be performed by using a drop of blood or a smear from the mouth and the results of the test can be made available in less than 20 minutes.
According to the World Health Organisation, globally, 40 per cent people with HIV or a whopping over 14 million remain unaware of their HIV status. Many of these are people at higher risk of HIV infection and often find it difficult to access the existing testing services.
As per the Ministry of Health, 2.1 million Indians live with HIV, but despite that India does not promote self-testing for HIV/AIDS. The Ministry Of Health says that they will review this new guidance by WHO and see how it can it be adapted in the Indian setting, but sources in the Ministry Of Health say that it may be useful for high risk groups like commercial sex workers, men having sex with men and truck drivers.
Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General says, “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.”
Depending on whether the test is positive or negative, individuals can take relevant medical advice, either for prevention or treatment of HIV.
According to WHO, between 2005 and 2015, the proportion of people with HIV learning of their status increased from 12 per cent to 60 per cent globally.
This increase in HIV testing uptake worldwide has led to more than 80 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV receiving therapy.
“By offering HIV self-testing, we can empower people to find out their own HIV status and also notify their partners and encourage them to get tested as well,” said Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of WHO’s Department of HIV.
“This should lead to more people knowing their status and being able to act upon it. Self-testing will be particularly relevant for those people who may find it difficult to access testing in clinical settings and might prefer self-testing as their method of choice,” Dr Hirnschall added.