with Covid, HIV tests drop

The number of HIV tests and new diagnoses has dropped in 2020. Bad news, a Sidaction representative explains to BFMTV.com, which starts this Friday.

Has the Covid-19 pandemic delayed HIV testing? According to Public Health France, the number of positive HIV results decreased by 22% in 2020 compared to the previous year. On the occasion of the opening of Sidaction this Friday, Sandrine Fournier, director of the financing, research and associations division within the association, summarizes the concerns of the specialists.

Why is the decline in the number of HIV diagnoses not good news?

Sandrine Fournier: “This drop in new discoveries of 22% is a false drop. This could indeed reflect, although to a lesser extent, the decrease in new infections, particularly with the confinement and curfew that, as we know, have limited sexual encounters and interactions. But the analysis shows that this drop is mainly linked to a decrease in detection.

It should also be remembered that the screening profile remains stable: just over half of the men and women diagnosed had never undergone screening before. While HIV testing increased between 2013 and 2019, it decreased by 14% between 2019 and 2020. This is significant. This represents 650,000 projections less.

What is worrying is that 30% of people diagnosed are in an advanced stage, that is, the disease has already weakened their immune system – without being in the AIDS stage, when the disease is very advanced.

We know that the sooner we are detected, the sooner the treatments are put in place and the better we live. Today, there are many reasons to fear a delay in detection and a possible rebound in the epidemic.

Do you have any idea what this rebound in the epidemic could represent?

“We cannot evaluate it. Especially since for two years, the actors involved in data collection have been mobilized on the Covid front. That is why the figures reported for the year 2020 are neither robust nor exhaustive. We hope have slightly more reliable reports for 2021, but we will not have them before the end of the year.

The problem is that most people who transmit HIV do not know their serological status and that they are carriers of the disease.

Of those who discovered their HIV status, 14% were under 25 and 22% over 50. These are the two categories of people you don’t think about, and yet the numbers don’t go down.”

How is this decrease in the number of projections explained?

“It is worth remembering that in 2018, for the first time and after ten years of stagnation, there was a 7% decrease in new diagnoses. This was good news: it reflected a drop in new infections but also a better use of tests detection”. , combined with the effects of treatments for HIV-positive people and preventive treatments, all from year to year.

The decrease in screening and diagnoses that we are witnessing since the Covid-19 crisis is explained by the conjunction of several factors. During the pandemic, access to laboratories has been difficult, often with long lines. Another element to take into account, the screening centers in the hospitals are in the infectious disease departments, which were fighting the pandemic.

And then we must not forget that Covid has been scary for a long time, causing laboratories and screening centers to be avoided for fear of catching the disease.

Many prevention or detection operations could not be carried out. However, the screenings that obtain the best results are those organized by associations, often community-based. These associations go directly to the target communities, African or LGBT, for example. They know where to find them. This type of operation detects seven times more positive people than in the laboratory. It must be emphasized, testing is the cornerstone in the fight against HIV.”

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