HIV infections are still on the rise in Canada. In fact, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, in 2017, 14% of people living with HIV remain undiagnosed, which represents 9,090 individuals living with HIV who are unaware of their status.
Current HIV testing approaches are not reaching the undiagnosed, who are estimated to be the source of 40-50% of all new HIV infections.
A new study, which is jointly funded by The CIHR Centre for REACH 3.0 and CANFAR aims to get self-testing (INSTI HIV Self-Test) approved for use by the public. Supporting this first national HIV self-test study was a major recommendation of CANFAR’s national working group that put together the action plan ‘Ending the HIV epidemic in Canada in Five Years’.
This study, launching in mid-August, includes 1,000 participants from key priority populations in Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Victoria, over a period of 12 to 16 weeks per location.
The project team includes highly experienced and qualified professionals from across Canada, led by Dr. Sean B. Rourke, a scientist at St. Michael’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute.
If the study results are successful, self-testing devices could become more accessible, e.g. online at pharmacies, front-line agencies, for populations most susceptible to HIV.
According to the World Health Organization, in countries where it is available, HIV self-testing has proven to be a game-changer, resulting in an improved HIV diagnosis rates, improved health of those with HIV, and a decrease in the transmission of HIV. It provides an effective, safe, anonymous and more convenient way to test for HIV.
Self-testing gives people more control over when, where and how frequently they test for HIV. Earlier diagnosis for HIV can also link people to care and treatment more quickly.
Additional HIV testing options will connect more people with HIV prevention, treatment and care efforts that can help them effectively manage their overall health – and contribute to ending the HIV epidemic in Canada.