HIV rates are reaching new records worldwide. The World Health Organisation (WHO) worry many cases might go unregistered due to a global HIV test kit shortage.

Three years ago the WHO sent out surveys to 127 countries all over the world asking about capacity and usage of blood tests that check HIV status. The results stunned WHO’s experts. Several countries reported that their HIV test kit inventories were much lower than they needed to be.

According to the BBC the WHO targets say that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV should know their HIV status, 90% of those diagnosed should receive anti-retroviral therapy and 90% of these treated patients should have durable viral suppression, a measure of effective treatment.

With a global HIV test kit shortage spreading across both developing and developed countries, the chance of reaching these targets is getting smaller by the minute, despite measures to increase awareness on HIV.

What does the HIV test kit check for?

Throughout the surveys, the WHO found that a lot of countries lacked the proper facilities to process the tests. The organisation is now calling for better guidelines to make sure everyone has access to convenient and confidential HIV tests.

In a comment to BBC, Dr Habiyambere and his team said “A national laboratory strategic plan to strengthen services must be developed, implemented and monitored by governments and their national and international partners. The focus of the international community to ensure optimal use of laboratory technologies should be on those countries where interventions for scaling up access to HIV diagnostic technologies are most needed.”

A HIV test kit consists of a blood sample which tests for the antibodies that your body makes against HIV. HIV is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, which can be passed through blood, semen or vaginal fluids. According to Public Health England, and the American Centre for Disease Control most people become infected after having unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive.

Record high

In 2014 the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) in Ireland reported a record high in new HIV diagnoses nationwide. 491 new cases were diagnosed in 2015, up from 377 the year before and 341 in 2013.

Advocacy group HIV Ireland told the Irish Examiner that the rise in new infections was a “great cause of concern” and said the public debate on HIV and Aids was “being deafened by silence”.

In the UK 6,151 new cases of HIV was identified in 2014, according to the organisation HIV Aware. The organisation also estimated that 17% of people living with HIV in the UK were unaware of their condition.

A total of 103,000 people in the UK are living with HIV today and are receiving treatment. However, the WHO are worried the number of diagnoses will keep reaching new record highs as undiagnosed people pass it on to others, making regular testing and caution more important than ever before.

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Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley