Can HIV Self-Test Help India End AIDS?
NEW DELHI, (IANS) – Testing is paramount to identify HIV cases, and making self-testing a national policy can certainly pave the way for ending AIDS in India, health experts contended on March 19.
Globally almost half of the countries (98) have included HIV self-testing policies, and one-fourth nations globally (52) are routinely implementing it. However, India is among the countries that have not yet developed a national policy on HIV self-testing.
“People who have HIV should know their status. Self-testing is a right of everybody,” Dr Ishwar Gilada, President of President, AIDS Society of India said.
Not implementing self-tests in India is just “a mindset issue”, Gilada said. “They (the government) unnecessarily think that somebody will commit suicide or counselling,” if people get to know their HIV status.
Citing the examples of “self-tests for Covid-19, pregnancy, diabetes,” he said, these “have not only proven successful in increasing the uptake of tests but also how it links to care services”.
The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS aims that 95 per cent of people living with HIV must know their status, 95 per cent of them should be on antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 95 per cent of these must be virally suppressed.
ART is the treatment for HIV and involves taking a combination of medicines. While it cannot cure HIV, it can help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives.
In India, as of March 2022, 77 per cent of people living with HIV knew their status, 84 per cent of them were on antiretroviral therapy, and 85 per cent of them had viral suppression.
This translates into 55 per cent of total people living with HIV in India being virally suppressed in 2021-22 against the target of 86 per cent of them virally suppressed by 2025-26.On the other hand, the poorest of the poor countries, including in Africa about 90-95 per cent know their HIV status.