Bridging the Gap: Overcoming pandemic disruptions to HIV testing

News desk, News Nation 360 : India is home to the third-largest number of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in the world – an estimated 23.5 lac. Amongst the adult population in the country, the HIV prevalence is roughly 0.22%, thoughthis rate is far higher amongst specific at-risk populations. With the onset of the pandemic, the continuum of care for PLHIV, including access to routine services, was disrupted, challenging gains made in HIV testing and care. The vulnerable population faced several obstacles –fear of infection resulting in reduced consultations and hospitals being converted to pandemic care facilities. HIV testing fell by ~41% in 2020 alone, across Asia and Africa. While testing protocol was impacted by the pandemic, India is gearingto meet the new UNAIDS’ fast-track 95-95 95 goals by 2030, adopted by the National AIDS Control Organization, and the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Ending the AIDS Epidemic as a Public Health Threat by 2030.  Dr. Sunita Upadhyaya, Associate Director for Programs, CDC stated that a streamlined approach to HIV care is a must to bridge the gap in testing, with only 65% of India’s annual target of 13.8 lac(1.38 million) viral load tests conducted this year. The government has a future-forward vision to transform the national approach to HIV care, with significant plans to take charge oftreatment centres, viral load testing and optimize lab functioning pan-India. Recognizing the infectious diseases posing public health threats today, it is critical for the government to leverage existing investments and offer an integrated diagnostic model through a one-stop shop of services, enabling collective screening or testing for HIV, Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Infections and COVID 19, particularly for at-risk populations. According to Atanu Mitra, General Manager for Abbott’s Molecular Diagnostics business in India, by leveraging world-class technology and their scientific expertise, they can collectively advance quality diagnostics for viral load testing so that people with or without HIV can get the care they need to live their best lives.

Report : Anustup Kundu