WHO urges a switch to rapid HIV testing

19 November 2019

Article: 53/4603

On 11 November 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a recommendation on HIV testing, urging countries to stop using slow, less accurate western blot and line immunoassay methods in favour of simple, more rapid tests, which can save lives by making testing more accessible and reducing waiting times.

The recommendation follows an analysis of the latest evidence and the systematic review of current practice that WHO conducted while revising its global recommendations on HIV testing services earlier this year.

The review compared testing strategies that use western blot/line immunoassay methods for confirmation of HIV diagnosis with those that use a combination of rapid diagnostic tests that can be given at the point of care and enzyme immunoassays. It found that testing strategies using rapid diagnostic tests combined with enzyme immunoassays were faster, more accurate and less expensive overall. The analysis is summarized in a policy brief, and the recommendations will be published to mark World AIDS Day on 1 December 2019.

It is important that people who are unknowingly living with HIV are tested and given antiretroviral treatment (ART) without delay. ART prevents HIV from developing into AIDS and, once the virus level in the blood is so low it is not detectable in a blood test, it enables people to live with the virus without passing it on to others.

Late diagnosis of HIV remains a challenge across most of the countries in the WHO European Region, as estimates suggest only 82% of people living with HIV in the region are aware of their status, with this figure reducing to 74% in eastern European countries.

Source: WHO, 11 November 2019