21% of HIV+ Indians Are Unaware Of their Status: UNAIDS Report
The latest report by UNAIDS has revealed that 9.4 million people living with HIV globally are still unaware.
According to a new report ‘Knowledge is Power’, released by UNAIDS ahead of World AIDS Day, 79 percent of people living with HIV in India were aware of their condition. But the percentage of those receiving treatment out of the total was just 56 percent; a gap of 23 percent.
Globally, 9.4 million people living with HIV are unaware about their condition and 19.4 million people diagnosed with HIV do not have a suppressed viral load.
The report also points out certain positive trends. Intensified HIV testing and treatment efforts are reaching more people than ever.
In 2017, 75 percent of people living with HIV knew their HIV status, compared to just two third in 2015, and 21.7 million had access to antiretroviral therapy, compared to 17.2 million in 2015.
Moreover, the number of people living with HIV who are virally suppressed has risen by around 10 percent in the past three years.
Viral suppression is the process of suppressing the virus to undetectable or very low levels to remain healthy and prevent transmission, through sustained antiretroviral therapy. To effectively monitor viral load, people living with HIV need access to viral load testing every 12 months.
In the words of the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé,
Viral load testing is the gold standard in HIV treatment monitoring. It shows that treatment is working, keeping people alive and well and keeping the virus firmly under control.
The report discusses many ways to tackle HIV unawareness and lack of treatment access.
A five Cs approach of consent, confidentiality, counselling, correct test results and connection/linkage to prevention, care and treatment can help. Even innovative approaches such as self-testing must be explored for people who would want the matter to remain private.
As Mr Sidibe said, “There isn’t a one size fits all approach to HIV testing.”
Since tuberculosis is the leading cause of death of people living with HIV, it is important to integrate HIV testing services within other health services including tuberculosis and maternal and child health services.
In its press release, UNAIDS stresses on access to HIV testing as a basic human right and calls for a ‘global commitment to remove the barriers preventing people from testing for HIV’, which include eliminating stigma and discrimination, ensuring confidentiality in HIV testing and treatment services and expanding access to viral load monitoring in low and middle-income countries.
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