How Regular Testing Reduces HIV – A Guide for Doctors and Pharmacists on the Benefits of HIV Testing
The United Nations has set a bold goal of ending the AIDS epidemic worldwide by 2030. In Australia, that goal is even more ambitious. The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has set a target of ending HIV transmission in Australia by 2025. In doing so, the virus will essentially be eliminated, and new cases will cease to emerge. You can read more about AFAO’s Agenda 2025 mission here.
With that in mind, what can you as a pharmacist or healthcare practitioner do to help?
- HIV Overview
- Medicine and It’s Effects
- Importance of Testing for Early Detection
- The Atomo HIV Self Test
If you’re a healthcare practitioner, then chances are you are already aware of HIV and its causes, symptoms, and consequences. However, if you need to brush up your knowledge, we recently published an article aimed at consumers that explains the virus in greater depth. Essentially, HIV is a virus that targets the body’s immune system by destroying the CD4 cells that fight infections (CD4 T lymphocyte), making it more susceptible and reducing its ability to fight back against both infections and HIV-related cancers. Eventually, if left untreated, HIV progresses to acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS.
Medicine and Its Effects
HIV medicines stop the multiplication of HIV thereby reducing the amount of HIV in the body (known as the HIV viral load). A lower viral load results in a much greater chance for a body’s immune system to produce more CD4 cells. Although HIV is still present within the body, the low viral load means that the immune system is strong enough to resist infections and cancers related to HIV.
In helping to reduce the HIV viral load, HIV medicines contribute to the reduction of HIV transmission. The main goal of HIV medicine is to reduce the viral load to a level that cannot be detected. Essentially, this means that the level of HIV in an individual’s blood is too insignificant to be recognised in a viral load test. As such, an undetectable HIV viral load effectively renders transmission of HIV impossible.
Importance of Testing for Early Detection
The time between an initial HIV infection and the time that it can be reliably detected by a test is known as the HIV window period. In most cases this window period is approximately 90 days; and Australian standards for HIV testing window periods reflect this. HIV tests identify HIV antibodies, as these are the most reliable markers of infection. As such, a negative test result at 3 months after potential exposure to HIV and no further risk of transmission has occurred during that time, it’s generally safe to assume that HIV is not present.
HIV treatment should commence as soon as possible after a confirmed positive HIV diagnosis in order to maximise its effectiveness. This is why Australian government bodies recommend that those at risk of contracting HIV take a test at least 4 times a year (once every 3 months). Early detection of an HIV infection is crucial in ensuring that an individual who is HIV positive can continue to live a fulfilling life despite their diagnosis.
The Atomo HIV Self Test
Atomo Diagnostics manufactures Australia’s only HIV self-test registered on the Australian Registry of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG 311989). The diagnostic performance of the Atomo HIV Self Test has been evaluated by several independent laboratories and found to demonstrate excellent performance. An aggregated summary of all relevant testing is presented below, including both CTS (European) and African data.
The Atomo HIV Self Test is discreet, accurate, and easy-to-use. You can perform the test yourself in the privacy of your own home or wherever you feel comfortable. You will be able to read your result in just 15 minutes. It requires just 10μl of blood and is a compact, all-in-one unit, making testing simpler, safer, and more convenient. Atomo HIV Self Test is a very accurate, single use screening test for HIV, but a positive result will still need to be confirmed by a blood serology test performed by a doctor or other relevant healthcare provider.
Atomo also manufacture a professional use test for the screening of HIV. This test is designed for use by clinicians in a point of care setting. For more information, click this link.