Amsterdam, 25 July 2018 – Unitaid stepped up its drive to revolutionize HIV diagnosis with today’s launch of two grant projects that promote self-testing as a key to turning the course of the world’s HIV epidemic. Unitaid’s investments in HIV self-testing now stand at more than US $100 million.
The new projects, with partners MTV Staying Alive Foundation and France’s NGO Solthis, follow several groundbreaking Unitaid-funded initiatives that have proved self-test kits can be an excellent, affordable way to reach people in high-risk, often stigmatized groups where the virus is entrenched, as well as those who have never been tested before.
A quarter of the 36.9 million people living with HIV worldwide are unaware that they are infected, according to the latest UNAIDS report on the epidemic.
“The knowledge we’ve gained in piloting self-testing shows us that HIV self-tests can make a huge public health impact when introduced on a large scale,” Unitaid Executive Director Lelio Marmora said. ‘The first of the UN 90-90-90 targets calls for 90 percent of people living with HIV to know their HIV status by 2020, and self-testing has the potential to help get us there.”
To date, 59 countries have self-testing programs, up from 47 in 2017.
Unitaid is providing US $10.1 million to the MTV Staying Alive Foundation to embed storylines involving HIV self-testing and prevention into its very popular MTV ShugaTV drama, a series viewed by many millions of adolescents and young adults in Africa. The grant will also fund a multimedia campaign and peer education programs aimed at people 15 to 24 years old, one of the segments of the population most vulnerable to contracting HIV.