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WHO releases new guidelines on HIV self-testing

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Health Desk-- December 4, 2016: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released new guidelines on HIV self-testing to improve access to and uptake of HIV diagnosis.

Lack of an HIV diagnosis is a major obstacle to implementing the Organisation’s recommendation that everyone with HIV should be offered antiretroviral therapy (ART), according to a new WHO progress report.

The report reveals that more than 18 million people with HIV are currently taking ART, and a similar number is still unable to access treatment, the majority of which are unaware of their HIV positive status.

Today, 40% of all people with HIV (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.

HIV self-testing means people can use oral fluid or blood- finger-pricks to discover their status in a private and convenient setting. Results are ready within 20 minutes or less. Those with positive results are advised to seek confirmatory tests at health clinics. WHO recommends 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 people facing barriers to accessing existing services.

Additionally, 23 countries currently have national policies that support HIV self-testing. Many other countries are developing policies, but wide-scale implementation of HIV self-testing remains limited. WHO supports free distribution of HIV self-test kits and other approaches that allow self-test kits to be bought at affordable prices.