A total of 9.4 million people living with HIV do not know they are infected, according to a new UNAIDS report. UNAIDS is an entity that analyzes efforts to facilitate access to HIV testing and available treatments.
The study also estimates that by 2017, three-quarters of people with HIV (75%) knew their HIV status, compared to only two-thirds (67%) in 2015. In addition to that, 21.7 million people living with HIV (59%) had access to antiretroviral therapy in 2017, up from 17.2 million in 2015.
The report notes that although the number of people living with HIV with undetectable viral loads increased by about ten percentage points in the last three years (47% in 2017), 19.4 million people living with HIV still do not have their loads under control.
UNAIDS recalled in its report that to prevent transmission, the virus must be suppressed at undetectable or shallow levels. That’s done through sustained antiretroviral therapy. And to effectively monitor viral load, people living with HIV need to conduct tests once every 12 months.
HIV tests are critical to keep the conditions under control and monitor its evolution, UNAID report said
“Viral load testing is the gold standard in HIV treatment monitoring. It shows that treatment is working, keeping people alive and well. And keeping the virus under control,” says UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe.
In its study, UNAIDS also warns that access to viral load tests is “mixed.” In some parts of the world, obtaining a viral load test is easy and fully integrated into the HIV treatment regimen. However, elsewhere there may be only one viral load machine for the whole country, they say.
“Viral load monitoring should be available in Lilongwe as in London. HIV tests and viral load tests must be equal and accessible to all people living with HIV, without exception,” Sidibe added.
Regarding viral load tests, they are “particularly important” for newborns of HIV-positive mothers, warns UNAIDS, as HIV progresses much faster in children. The only viable test for HIV in very young children is a virological test which children must receive within the first four to six weeks of life. However, by 2017, only about half (52%) of children exposed to HIV in underdeveloped countries received a test in the first two months of life.