Increase in Number of Countries Adopting HIV Self-Testing Policies

Geneva, 20 July 2016 – UNITAID and the World Health Organization (WHO) today released the second edition of the landscape report on HIV Self-testing which shows that 16 countries have adopted HIV self-testing policies, while many others are currently developing them. Released at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, the report summarizes latest technologies for HIV self-testing, including estimates for demand, supply, and pricing.

The report finds that the market for HIV self-testing tools is clearly growing – a trend that could help to meet global demand which is estimated to reach at least 4.8 million HIV rapid diagnostic tests by 2018. This along with growing interest from international donors could make low-cost and quality self-testing tools available faster than ever before.

Currently there are only a few self-tests on the market that are eligible for procurement by major donors, although these are prohibitively expensive to use in low- and middle-income countries.  However, nine other tests are emerging in the market, which are likely to be introduced at lower price points. One of these is an oral fluid test, which is being distributed for free in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi as part of a UNITAID-funded HIV self-testing initiative with Population Services International (PSI).

“Innovation is critical both to reducing the price of these tests, and to simplifying them to making them more user friendly,” says Lelio Marmora, Executive Director, UNITAID. “This is the only way we can reach almost half of all people with HIV who are unaware of their status.”

In the long run, HIV self-testing could expand testing in countries and help to meet United Nations targets, including diagnosing 90 percent of all people with HIV by 2020. A person’s knowledge of their HIV status, in turn, helps them get on treatment as soon as possible.

“HIV self-testing can help countries reach the unreached, especially key populations, who can learn their HIV status and then access treatment services,” says Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of Department of HIV and Global Hepatitis Programme, World Health Organization. “WHO is fast progressing to develop enabling guidelines on HIV self-testing. It is encouraging to see several countries beginning to introduce HIV self-testing as a promising innovation to achieve faster scale-up.”

The UNITAID-funded HIV self-testing initiative in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, is helping to maximize the market potential for new HIV self-testing tools. “Our research will help us to determine the most efficient and ethical way to distribute self-testing kits to people in urban and rural areas,” says Karin Hatzold, Project Director, UNITAID-PSI STAR project.

This along with WHO’s plans to provide normative guidance and a prequalification pathway for HIV self-testing by December 2016 will be critical to the development of a healthy HIVST market.

The report was prepared in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Population Services International (PSI).

About STAR

The largest evaluation of HIV self-testing in Africa to date, the two-year $23 million UNITAID/PSI pilot project is being implemented in partnership with the World Health Organization, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and University College London. It will generate crucial information about how to deliver HIV self-tests to people living in urban and rural areas. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1OA1JVi