The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that 40 per cent or about 14 million people globally are not aware that they are HIV positive.
This is contained in a new WHO progress report released ahead of the 2016 World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.
The report said that lack of an HIV diagnosis is a major obstacle to implementing the organisation’s recommendation that everyone with HIV should be offered Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).
It said that more than 18 million people with HIV were currently taking ART and a similar number were still unable to access treatment.
According to it, the majority of these people are unaware of their HIV positive status.
To address this, the world’s health body has released new guidelines on HIV self-testing to improve access to and uptake of HIV diagnosis.
It said that: “HIV self-testing means people can use oral fluid or blood-finger-pricks to discover their status in a private and convenient setting.
“Results are ready within 20 minutes or less.
“Those with positive results are advised to seek confirmatory tests at health clinics.
“HIV self-testing is a way to reach more people with undiagnosed HIV and represents a step forward to empower individuals.
“It is also a way to diagnose people earlier before they become sick, bring services closer to where people live, and create demand for HIV testing.
“This is particularly important for those people facing barriers to accessing existing services.’’
Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, said: “Millions of people with HIV are still missing out on life-saving treatment, which can also prevent HIV transmission to others.
“HIV self-testing should open the door for many more people to know their HIV status and find out how to get treatment and access prevention services.
“WHO recommends they receive information and links to counselling as well as rapid referral to prevention, treatment and care services.’’