New WHO guidelines emphasise community testing
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released new guidance on the delivery of HIV testing to ensure that as many people as possible are diagnosed early. It is estimated that globally around 49% of people with HIV are unaware of their status. The guidelines combine existing guidance with new recommendations to improve and expand services and create an enabling environment to get more people testing and onto treatment.
The new guidelines acknowledge the importance of testing as a crucial gateway to prevention, treatment and care, and its role in achieving the three interlinked United Nations 90-90-90 global HIV targets. It is a reality that many more countries are falling behind on the first target – diagnosis of 90% of people with HIV by 2020 – than the other two relating to start-up of treatment and viral load suppression of people on treatment.
An important focus of the guidance is on integrating testing services and prioritising the role of ‘lay’ providers to reach both communities and marginalised groups. Lay providers refers generally to community-based services provided by trained members of the community they serve. This peer approach can be an effective way of increasing take-up of testing as it is more culturally relevant and supportive.
AVERT welcomes the new WHO guidelines and in particular the emphasis on lay testing services. Our partner, the Umunthu Foundation, provides community-based HIV testing, treatment and support services in Malawi. Umunthu reach people in the heart of their community, an approach that has enabled them to test over 55,000 people in the last four years.