Policy brief to encourage HIV self-testing

World AIDS Day - ILO and WHO promote workplace HIV self-testing

Techniques for encouraging HIV self-testing at the workplace, which could help millions of people know their HIV status, are promoted in a new, joint ILO/WHO policy brief.

News | 30 November 2018
© U.S. Mission Uganda
GENEVA (ILO News) – A new policy brief to encourage HIV self-testing at the workplace is being launched by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

HIV self-testing at workplaces gives workers more choices, and may be particularly effective in reaching seasonal, migrant, and other groups of workers who do not have easy access to other forms of HIV testing.

Reaching these key population groups could help realize the United Nations target, of 90 per cent of people living with HIV to know their status by 2020. Currently, it’s estimated that more than nine million people globally – 25 per cent of those living with HIV – do not know their HIV status.

The document launched today reflects the theme of 2018 World AIDS Day - “Know your status”

Although there has been a considerable increase in HIV testing services many people are still being left behind, particularly men. Making HIV testing at the workplace more widely available gives workers more choice, convenience and confidentiality, and allows them to access prevention, treatment, care and support services, if necessary.

HIV self-testing allows someone to collect their own specimen (oral fluid or blood) and use a simple, rapid test. The self-test kits are distributed after awareness sessions and information on how to use them, where to go for confirmatory tests and further counselling. The WHO recommends HIV self-testing as an additional option that complements and creates demand for existing HIV testing services.

“Knowledge of one’s HIV status is the first step towards staying healthy and keeping working and HIV self-testing at the workplace has huge potential to increase the uptake of HIV testing,” said Moussa Oumarou, ILO Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnerships. “Now that treatment is available, HIV should not be allowed to take any more lives. HIV self-testing will now be part of the ILO’s ongoing VCT@WORK Initiative that has already shown very good results."

“The ILO is extremely happy to collaborate with WHO in developing this policy brief. A healthy workforce continues to be our joint goal.”

“Improving the health and well-being of workers leads to healthier societies and productive economies. WHO is recommending that more workers are offered HIV self-testing as an additional option to access not only HIV testing but also earlier prevention and treatment services, ” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Deputy Director-General for Programmes.

The potential of workplaces to expand HIV testing has been demonstrated by the ILO’s Voluntary HIV Counselling and Testing for Workers (VCT@WORK) Initiative. This brings HIV testing to workplaces, focussing on selected economic sectors and workplaces. Between July 2013 and December 2017 the Initiative tested 4.3 million workers and referred more than 105,000 who were HIV positive to receive antiretroviral treatment More men (69%) were reached than women (30%), showing the potential of workplace testing as a way to reach out to men.

The ILO estimates that nearly 30 million workers with HIV will be in the workplace globally by 2020. Lost earnings attributable to HIV – because of death or inability to work – are projected to surpass US$7 billion.

The joint policy brief will be launched by Oumarou and Swaminathan at an event to mark 30 years of World AIDS Day, since it was first observed by WHO in 1988.

ILO and WHO will both be organizing events to promote HIV testing amongst their staff at their Geneva headquarters.

Media Contacts:

Afsar Syed Mohammad, Senior Technical Specialist, ILO afsar@ilo.org

Tunga Namjilsuren, HIV/Hepatitis Information Manager, WHO namjilsurent@who.int