When doing the right thing is the best thing, Part 1
DURBAN, South Africa – Do the UNAIDS goals of diagnosing 90 percent of those with HIV, treating 90 percent of them, and suppressing the virus to undetectable levels in 90 percent of those all by 2020 sound daunting to you?
How about doing it in two years instead?
That’s what an out-of-facility, “collapse the cascade” approach providing immediate links to diagnostic, care, and treatment services accomplished, findings of the SEARCH study showed on Wednesday. In regular language that means meeting communities’ health needs.
The SEARCH study is an ongoing trial involving about 320,000 people across 32 communities in Kenya and Uganda examining the impact of bringing testing for not just HIV, but multiple diseases and chronic common health concerns into communities where that is lacking, offering universal access to treatment for HIV, and uncomplicated access to the kind of health care many in some high-income countries may take for granted. For these results, researchers focused on the percent of residents with HIV who, one and two years into their access to these services, knew their HIV status, were receiving antiretroviral treatment that protects their health and diminishes their risks of transmitting the virus, and among whom treatment was successfully suppressing the virus.
If 90 percent of those living with HIV are diagnosed, 90 of them are on treatment, and 90 of them have suppressed viruses, that would mean that 73 percent of people living with HIV would be on treatment that protected their health and risks of transmission, the goal UNAIDS has indicated is necessary to reach by 2020 to control the pandemic by 2030. By the end of two years of the SEARCH study approach, that goal had been met and exceeded across all categories with 97 percent of those with HIV diagnosed, 94 percent on treatment, and 90 percent with suppressed viruses.
While the study showed the impact of taking what is already known to be an optimal approach to health care, it also confronted persisting questions. Bringing the numbers down, Peterson noted was a “youth gap,” yet another indication that more innovative, and perhaps common sense solutions to challenges in finding, treating and retaining some of the most vulnerable groups and individuals affected by the pandemic continue to be needed.
Stay tuned for When doing the right thing is the best thing, Part 2, Tuesday, with Partners study results.