About European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week

 

What is European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week?

Testing week is an initiative that was launched by HIV in Europe in 2013 to help more people to become aware of their HIV status. Now in its third year, testing week has expanded for 2015 to include hepatitis and is now named European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week. This year, it will take place from 20-27 November 2015.

European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week offers partners across Europe the opportunity to unite to increase awareness of the benefits of HIV and hepatitis testing among those who are at risk. In 2014, more than 709 organisations from across 56 countries took part in testing week and thousands more people are now aware of their HIV status. Through united efforts, we hope that testing week 2015 is an even greater success.

What are the aims of testing week?

The ultimate goal of European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week is to make more people aware of their HIV and/ or hepatitis status and reduce late diagnosis by communicating the benefits of testing. The theme for this year’s testing week is Test. Treat. Prevent., with the aim of supporting ongoing dialogue between all partners in the HIV and hepatitis communities, in order to:

  • Encourage people who could be at risk of HIV or hepatitis to get a test
  • Encourage healthcare professionals to offer an HIV or hepatitis test as part of routine care in specific settings and conditions (in line with present European guidelines)
  • Support and unite community organisations to scale up access to HIV and hepatitis testing as far as possible and share lessons learned between countries
  • Make more policy makers aware of the individual, societal and economic benefits of HIV and hepatitis testing initiatives and how to evaluate testing practices.

Why is testing week needed?

Today, at least one in three of the 2.5 million people living with HIV in Europe are unaware that they are HIV positive. Half of those living with HIV are diagnosed late – which delays access to treatment.

Hepatitis B and C are common among people at risk of and living with HIV. Around 13.3 million people are living with hepatitis B in the WHO European Region; approximately 15–40% of infected individuals will develop cirrhosis, liver failure or hepatocellular carcinoma. 15 million people in the WHO European Region are living with hepatitis C; however, the majority of people with hepatitis C remain undiagnosed and only a small minority in Europe (3.5%) receive treatment.

These statistics suggest that we need to be doing more to encourage individuals who are unknowingly living with HIV and/or hepatitis to take a test, and to better target people who could be at risk.

Why is testing important?

It’s better for people at risk of HIV and/ or hepatitis to know their status as soon as possible. Today, HIV treatments advances mean that people living with HIV can live healthily for a long time if they are diagnosed early and those with hepatitis C can be cured.

When people are diagnosed with HIV and/or hepatitis late, they are less likely to respond well to treatment and more likely to have health and/or treatment-related complications.

Late presentation for HIV and hepatitis care is more costly for the healthcare system. Late diagnosis and delayed access to treatment are the most important factors associated with ongoing transmission of HIV and hepatitis and preventable related illnesses and death.

How can you get involved?

The first step is that your organisation signs up to participate. For a comprehensive overview of how you could get involved, we recommend that you download Toolkit 2 – testing week implementation handbook.

Why sign up?

We are asking both new partners and existing partners to sign up and let everyone know you are supporting European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week 2015. If you signed up in previous years, please sign up again as it helps us evaluate the week.

By signing-up to the European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week you are indicating that you intend to take action to contribute to achieving the aims of testing week to increase the proportion of people who are aware of their HIV and/or hepatitis status.

Signing-up as a partner organisation also enables HIV in Europe to evaluate the success of testing week. Partnering organisations are sent an evaluation report following testing week which on completion will help HIV in Europe evaluate the value of the initiative in helping to reduce late HIV/Hepatitis diagnosis; gather national and regional testing statistics; and measure website traffic and social media activity to get an idea of the coverage achieved by testing week.

For more information on how partnering organisations help support the evaluation of testing week, please see Toolkit 2 – Testing week implementation handbook.

Partnering organisations are featured on the dedicated testing week Success Stories page, where successful testing initiatives are highlighted to help inspire others with ideas about what they can do to encourage more people across Europe to get tested.

Who is testing week for?

Testing week is relying on three core groups to help ensure it achieves its aim: policy makers, healthcare professionals and civil society organisations. These groups can help promote HIV and hepatitis testing and timely access to treatment as a national priority.

Key populations for HIV testing

In terms of who should be accessing HIV testing, key populations at higher risk in Europe vary from country to country, but in general they include:

  • Men who have sex with men
  • Intravenous drug users
  • Sex workers
  • Migrants (including persons originating from a high prevalence country) and mobile populations
  • Prisoners

Key populations for hepatitis testing

The key populations at higher risk of hepatitis are the same as those for HIV, above. In addition, those at increased risk of living with undiagnosed hepatitis include:

  • People on long-term haemodialysis
  • People who have received blood, blood products or organs before screening for hepatitis C was implemented, or where screening is not yet widespread
  • Healthcare workers

How is testing week organised and run?

HIV in Europe runs testing week in close collaboration with the European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week Working Group, which comprises civil society representatives, healthcare professionals and policy makers. The working group was established to provide ongoing advice and support on the testing week concept and materials.

European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week Working Group comprises representatives from the following organisations:

  • AAE (AIDS Action Europe)
  • AHF Europe (AIDS Healthcare Foundation Europe)
  • EACS (European AIDS Clinical Society)
  • EATG (European AIDS Treatment Group)
  • ECOM (Eurasian Coalition on Male Health)
  • ECUO (East Europe & Central Asia Union of PLHIV)
  • GAT (Grupo Português de Ativistas sobre Tratamentos de VIH/SIDA (Portuguese Group of activists on HIV/AIDS treatments))
  • HIV in Europe
  • PHE (Public Health England)
  • THT (Terrence Higgins Trust)
  • Correlation Network
  • European Liver Patients Association (ELPA)

Project management for the testing week initiative is run by the HIV in Europe secretariat, who can be contacted at: hie.rigshospitalet@regionh.dk

For further information on HIV in Europe and for a full list of organisations who fund its work, visit www.hiveurope.eu