This is to ensure that the 9.4 million people around the world who are unaware of their HIV-positive status can access treatment and that people who are HIV-negative can continue to protect themselves against the virus.
A new diagnostic test for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and syphilis is being rolled out by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) across the Western Pacific region, to reach the most vulnerable populations with vital sexual and reproductive health services.
In the Western Pacific, geographic isolation significantly hinders testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Most HIV and STI cases are detected during health care visits using laboratory-based diagnostic testing, yet populations are often scattered across a multitude of remote small islands, many with either limited or no access at all to clinical health services.
People are often forced to travel great distances to seek testing, treatment and care. Test turnaround times can be lengthy, requiring patients to return on a separate date for test results, resulting in substantial loss to follow-up.
Laboratory-based testing is particularly challenging with key populations (men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and people who use drugs). They face stigma and discrimination as well as legal and social barriers, further hindering their access to health services.
Rapid diagnostic tests that enable testing to be conducted at the point of care using finger prick blood or serum, such as the Standard Diagnostics Bioline HIV/syphilis (or SD Duo) test are well suited to address these circumstances. They require no sophisticated equipment and can be performed in remote locations.
Following an initial pilot project implemented by UNDP in 2017, the SD Duo test has now been implemented in the Cook Islands.
Through the Global Fund the Ministry of Health has conducted HIV and syphillis tests on Mauke, Mangaia and Mitiaro using the SD Duo test kits. Te Tiare Association members were also tested.