REGIONAL August 3, 2018

New HIV Info App Features Asia Pacific Research On HIV Self-Testing

Bangkok, Monday 6 August, 2018: Information on HIV testing, including research about HIV self-testing and voluntary assisted partner notification in Asia, can now be quickly accessed through a new World Health Organisation app.

Conducted by Asia Pacific HIV and rights community network APCOM, the research focuses on the values and preferences on HIV self-testing and voluntary assisted partner notification among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people in Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand.

HIV self-testing kits allow users to test themselves for HIV in the comfort and privacy of their own home. The kits are available in many countries around world but very few in Asia and the Pacific. HIV advocates believe making HIV self-testing more widely available throughout the region will help reduce rising HIV transmission rates among MSM and transgender people. Likewise, assisted partner notification, where providers (with consent of their clients) contact and offer HIV testing services to their HIV positive client’s sexual and drug injecting partners. This approach has been highlighted as one of the most effective HIV testing strategies, as it will reach many people at high risk of HIV in need of prevention and treatment services.

The research undertaken by APCOM is a supplement to the WHO Consolidated Guidelines on HIV Testing Services (HTS) which are now accessible on a new WHO app. Called WHO HTS Info, the app makes it easy for people involved with HIV service provision, research, policy or product development to view WHO guidance on HIV testing.

Based in Bangkok, APCOM represents and works with over 200 community organisations across 38 countries throughout Asia and the Pacific to inform and improve the response across the region to HIV, human rights and other related issues for MSM and LGBT* people.

APCOM’s Executive Director Midnight Poonkasetwattana said: “Only about 50% of MSM in our region get tested for HIV. Without testing rates increasing, the HIV epidemic will continue to escalate among MSM and transgender people in our region. Having more options for testing will encourage more people to know their HIV status through regular testing.

“In terms of HIV self-testing, the key finding from our research is that people from our communities want access to affordable testing kits that are linked to referral pathways and counselling support for people who test positive. Distribution of kits through culturally sensitive community organisations and sexual health clinics is also a clear preference. In terms of voluntary assisted partner notification, many people remain unaware of what this is, so a lot more work to inform communities is needed. Due to major concerns around privacy, confidentiality and relationship status, there is a strong view that any notification process should be client-driven.

“Through this new research, APCOM is proud to be contributing to the development of the WHO guidelines for HIV testing and we’ll continue to advocate for increased access to HIV testing for the people and communities we serve.”

Dr Rachel Baggaley, Coordinator of Key Populations and Innovative Prevention at the WHO HIV Department, said: “Our new WHO HTS Info app allows for easy access to information and guidelines that will help service providers, policymakers, researchers and product developers improve their practice in relation to HIV testing.

“We thank APCOM for helping produce some of the important research that informs our HIV guidelines and recommendations, especially those in relation to HIV self-testing and assisted partner notification. We hope this information will help deliver better health outcomes for all people and communities affected by HIV.”

View the WHO HTS Info app: http://www.who.int/hiv/mediacentre/news/hts-info-app/en/

Viet the 2015 WHO HTS guidelines:  http://www.who.int/hiv/pub/guidelines/hiv-testing-services/en/

View the 2016 WHO HTS guidelines: http://www.who.int/hiv/pub/self-testing/hiv-self-testing-guidelines/en/

ENDS

Michael Badorrek, APCOM Snr Mngr Communications and Partnerships
+66 (0)8 3840 1122 | michaelb@apcom.org