Developing Countries Should Implement Voluntary Routine HIV Testing, UNAIDS, WHO Officials Say
Countries with widespread HIV/AIDS epidemics and access to treatment should implement a voluntary routine HIV testing policy, officials from UNAIDS and the World Health Organization announced on Sunday in advance of the opening of the XV International AIDS Conference, the AP/Raleigh News & Observer reports. The current strategy -- in which patients specifically request an HIV test -- is not working in developing countries, where 90% of HIV-positive people do not know their statuses, U.N. officials said. Patients visiting clinics for any reason and who are not offered HIV tests represent "missed opportunities" to make early HIV/AIDS diagnoses and to discuss prevention methods, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said. WHO is recommending a "complete package in which testing and counseling, working on stigma, social mobilization and the offer of treatment can happen simultaneously," Jim Yong Kim, director of WHO's Department of HIV/AIDS, said. He added that routine HIV testing should always be confidential and consensual. WHO has considered recommending such a policy for years but decided to do so now after concluding that access to treatment outweighs the need to avoid potential discrimination, according to the AP/News & Observer. Ernest Darkoh, head of Botswana's national AIDS program, said, "You realize very quickly that the whole paradigm of voluntary counseling and testing does not make sense at all in a country where you have a generalized epidemic. It just means you reach people late." Botswana recently switched from a voluntary to a routine HIV testing system (Ross, AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 7/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.