WHO/Europe releases the Regional HIV testing and counselling policy framework

WHO

04 May 2010

The World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe has developed a Regional HIV testing and counselling policy framework.

The document is a result of numerous and extensive consultations with various stakeholders, including governmental representatives, health care and public health professionals, civil society organizations, people living with HIV and affected communities, United Nations organizations and other partners. The framework provides detailed recommendations to guide Member States and outlines ten main principles for scaling up HIV testing and counselling as an essential component of efforts to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support in the WHO European Region.

The ten principles include the following:

  • Scaling up HIV testing and counselling is both a public health and human rights imperative and must be linked to broader efforts to achieve universal access to comprehensive, evidence-based HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
  • Expanded HIV testing and counselling must be tailored to different settings, populations and client needs.
  • Efforts to increase access to and uptake of HIV testing and counselling should include implementation of provider-initiated testing and counselling in health facilities when appropriate.
  • Efforts to increase access to and uptake of HIV testing and counselling must meet the needs of most-at-risk and vulnerable populations and expand beyond clinical settings and involve civil society and community-based organizations in providing the HIV testing and counselling services.
  • Rapid HIV tests should be used where appropriate.
  • Regardless of where and how HIV testing is done, it must always be voluntary and with the informed consent of the person being tested, adequate pre-test information or counselling, post-test counselling, protection of confidentiality and referral to services.
  • HIV testing policies and practices should be reviewed to eliminate any non-voluntary forms of testing.
  • Efforts to increase access to and uptake of HIV testing and counselling must be accompanied by equal efforts to ensure supportive social, policy and legal environments.
  • In each country, consultations should be undertaken to formulate plans for expanded HIV testing and counselling based on this framework.
  • Efforts to expand access to HIV testing and counselling must be carefully monitored and evaluated.

The WHO Regional Office for Europe will organize a workshop during the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, on “Scaling up HIV Testing and Counselling in Eastern Europe and Central Asia with major emphasis on at risk and vulnerable populations”. The workshop will take place on 20 July 2010, from 14:30-18:00.

The workshop will be one of the first steps in operationalizing the policy framework, and will provide an opportunity to discuss the potential of non-governmental and community-based organizations to contribute to the HIV testing and counselling scale up in the WHO European Region Member States, existing barriers preventing their wide and active involvement and possible ways to overcome those barriers.