HIV Testing to Keep us on Track

How the latest rapid tests can help maintain the progress with curbing HIV.

Diagnostics|Mar.01, 2023

Over the years, the HIV epidemic has undergone numerous ebbs and surges; however, recent promising global trends indicate that since 2010 there has been an approximately 32% decline in new infections. Today, being diagnosed with HIV does not mean you can’t live a full life. Education, treatment and healthcare management options today are helping dispel misconceptions about HIV and allowing people to enjoy enriched lives, even with the infection.  Based on 2021 reports, over 30Mn people are benefiting from life-changing health care, like anti-retroviral therapies; which are making it possible for them to continue living their lives despite a positive HIV diagnosis. Like any other illness, testing is the pivotal first step that helps people get there. Research shows that in 2021 approximately 85% of people affected by HIV globally knew of their status; however 15% of people did not know they had it but still required access to healthcare services. Enhanced testing and diagnostics capabilities are helping steadily bridge that gap.

The ripple effects of COVID-19

With restricted movement and an overloaded healthcare system, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many a disruption and upheaval to health services across the world. Gains made in HIV testing nationwide have also been threatened over recent years, with people facing obstacles to accessing diagnostics during the pandemic. There was a marked drop in HIV testing rates during the peak of the pandemic, which could potentially lead to an increase in transmission rates. Furthermore, with the AIDS/HIV affected being more vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, the importance of testing— as an essential gateway to ensuring the right care for those who need it, at the right time— emerged even stronger during the pandemic.

Time is of the essence

Early and accurate detection of HIV positive patients is important to simplify the patient journey to access the needed care as quickly as possible. More so, it prevents future HIV transmissions. Individuals who are unaware of their infection are 3.5 times more likely to transmit the virus to someone else. Studies suggest that approximately 40% of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who are unaware that they have HIV. Furthermore, early testing for HIV is key when it comes to creating a timely and effective treatment plan and reducing the severity of symptoms. Once diagnosed, beginning antiretroviral therapy, as prescribed, can suppress the virus to a point that it is virtually undetectable, significantly reducing chances of transmission, slowing down the progression of the infection and helping people with HIV live relatively healthy lives.

The future of testing

Innovations like point-of-care testing i.e. rapid HIV screening performed in clinical settings by professionals, are crucial to ensure timely infection detection. It also improves access to diagnostics, empowering people to easily know their infection status with accurate results in just 20 minutes. Rapid point-of-care solutions are especially critical in developing nations, where access to diagnostics is limited in remote or rural areas of the country, and voluntary testing is also low. Latest generation, simple to use rapid tests, equipped with high sensitivity and specificity, can help with early detection. It is capable of identifying both HIV antibodies and the antigen, which can appear even 15-25 days after infection. Thus, it is more accurate in a shorter period of time. This is also crucial in blood bank screenings, where the window period of HIV detection can be almost halved. The period of detection can be as early as 12 days of living with the HIV infection, as compared to a typical 20 days or later time period of detection seen with previous versions of the tests.

Strengthening collective efforts globally and giving impetus to the welcome progress already made will help us stay on track for the 95-95-95 plan to end the Aids epidemic by 2030. Breakthroughs in technology for testing and treatment – supported by education, de-stigmatisation and accessibility— is helping the world at large make great strides when it comes to tackling public health challenges such as the HIV epidemic and helping people live healthier, fuller lives!

Disclaimer: The information mentioned in this document is only suggestive /for patient education and shall not be considered as a substitute for doctor’s advice or recommendations from Abbott. Please consult your doctor for more information.