As HIV Testing Declines, Self-Tests Help Improve Outcome

HIV self-tests improve accessibility and help inform people of their status to help stop the virus from spreading.

Diagnostics Testing|Nov.23, 2022

You’re about to head out to the streets of Copenhagen for Spot’s daily walk and notice it’s suspiciously cloudy. So, you open the Weather app to check and see that there’s a “15% chance of rain”. That chance of rain hovering convinces you to bring your umbrella.

When it comes to HIV almost 6 million people, or the equivalent of the population of Denmark, are positive for HIV but don’t know their status. In other words, they don’t know about the chance of rain in their neighborhood, so the choice on whether to bring an umbrella is not top of mind.

We’ve made great progress since the HIV epidemic began in 1981. Today, there are 38.4 million people globally that have HIV. But for the 5.9 million people, or 15%, who don’t know they have HIV, it’s important that they get in-the-know to receive the resources and treatment they need to protect themselves and others.

The Importance of Testing

When someone is diagnosed with HIV, they can receive antiretroviral therapy. As of the end of 2021, nearly 30 million people with HIV were accessing this life changing care. But people who don’t know their status can unknowingly spread the virus continuing the cycle of infections.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, HIV testing declined 22% worldwide.

Testing remains the first step to ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat and is the connector to care that can help them continue living their lives should they test positive.

That’s where at-home HIV testing that’s private, reliable and easy-to-use comes in.

At-Home Testing to Fill the Gap

In 2016, the World Health Organization recommended self-testing as an easy, effective way to reach people who may not test otherwise, including people from disproportionately vulnerable groups who are unlikely to get the healthcare they need, such as young people and men who have sex with men.

Studies have repeatedly shown that HIV self-testing makes people more likely to get tested. A study in South Africa of men who have sex with men noted a 47% increase in semi-annual HIV testing when using self-tests. A facility-based HIV self-testing study found that people using self-tests were eight times more likely to get regular HIV testing than those who only had access to clinical settings.

To make HIV testing more accessible, Abbott launched Panbio HIV Self Test — a rapid point-of-care test for the detection of HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibodies from a fingerstick whole blood sample — in approved, select markets outside the U.S. A similar self-test called CheckNOW is also available to governments and public health authorities outside the U.S

“Giving people the ability to reliably test themselves conveniently in the privacy of their homes and get results in 15-20 minutes empowers them with health information to prevent onward transmission of the virus. It also gets more people into the healthcare system where they can be treated and supported,” said Gavin Cloherty, Ph.D., head of Infectious Disease Research, Diagnostics, Abbott.

Reliable HIV diagnostic tests that can be used at home or in other settings play an important role in healthcare because they help people know their HIV status without facing discrimination or stigma. Once test results are in hand, people can speak with healthcare professionals who can direct them to treatment they may not have received otherwise.

Testing to Help End the AIDS Epidemic

An estimated 28 million global HIV infections could be prevented by 2030 if the 95-95-95 goals set by UNAIDS are met – which is the goal that by 2030, 95% of people living with HIV know their status, 95% of people who know their status are receiving treatment and 95% of people on HIV treatment have a suppressed viral load.

Reaching these goals requires testing that can easily be used by anyone so public health experts can understand how the virus is affecting communities today and help get people the treatment they need.

By increasing accessibility through HIV self-tests, we can assist the 15% of people who don’t know their HIV status and defend against further spread of the virus.

The Panbio HIV Self Test is not approved for use in the U.S.