A new report, ‘Knowledge is Power’, has revealed that an estimated 9.4 million people who are infected with HIV virus are not aware. According to the report, released by UNAIDS, 75 percent of all people living with HIV or 27 million people, know their HIV status. The report has therefore called for increased efforts to reach the 9.4 million people living with HIV who are not aware that they are living with the virus and the estimated 19.4 million people living with HIV who do not have a suppressed viral load.
The new report from UNAIDS shows that intensified HIV testing and treatment efforts were reaching more people living with HIV. To remain healthy and to prevent transmission, the HIV virus needs to be suppressed to undetectable or very low levels through sustained antiretroviral therapy.
According to the executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, to effectively monitor viral load, people living with HIV need access to viral load testing every 12 months.
He 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 firmly under control. Viral load monitoring needs to be as available in Lilongwe as it is in London. HIV testing and viral load testing should be equal and accessible to all people living with HIV, without exception”.
The report showed that one of the biggest barriers to HIV testing was stigma and discrimination. Studies among women, men, young people and key populations revealed that fear of being seen accessing HIV services, and if the person is diagnosed, fear that this information would be shared with family, friends, sexual partners or the wider community, was preventing them from accessing HIV services, including HIV testing.
The report has also known that implementing these measures would hugely advance progress towards ensuring that all people living with and affected by HIV have access to the life-saving services they need.