The rate of new HIV diagnoses in EU countries has stabilized in the last decade, but for people living in the larger European region - Eastern Europe and Central Asia - HIV is still a substantive public health challenge. The number of infected persons is large and continues to increase along with the HIV-related morbidity and mortality. These consistently increasing trends emphasize, that many HIV infected people in need of HIV treatment and care – antiretroviral treatment (ART) - in the region, are not receiving life preserving treatment. ART, when used effectively, can eliminate the harmful effects on a person’s immune system, improve quality and expectancy of life, and even make the person non-infectious to others.
There are two principle issues preventing comprehensive use of ART for infected people in the region: First, a sizable fraction of people infected with HIV - 1 in 5 - are unaware of the infection and more than 50% of people infected with HIV are diagnosed late. Late diagnosis delays treatment and increases the risk of AIDS and death and onwards transmission. The percentage of late diagnosis is particularly high among heterosexual men and injecting drug users. Second, there is an even larger fraction, that has already been diagnosed but has not yet accessed treatment and care.
The issue of people not being aware of their infection or being diagnosed late is solved by optimizing testing strategies, while the lack of accessing ART for those already diagnosed, is corrected by restructuring the approach where health care systems offer ART to those in need.
The WHO has issued a strong recommendation on HIV testing, urging countries to stop using the slow, less accurate western blot and line immunoassay methods and replace them with simple, rapid tests.
An online course to create awareness
The Clinical management of HIV course has been created on iversity.org as an innovative and practical accessible way to support capacity building and knowledge sharing on HIV treatment and care – especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The clinical approach is based on the EACS Guidelines (European AIDS Clinical Society) combined with the public health approach from the WHO treatment guidelines.
WHO Europe has been a very important partner right from the outset in the effort to reach out to the larger European Region. The course has been actively used to train clinicians in Eastern Europe helping them to optimize their ART programs. In addition to English, all course material is available in Russian to facilitate the understanding of the course material for Russian learners.
It is a comprehensive course, covering specialist clinical knowledge and experience in treatment and care for people infected with HIV and co-morbidities, HIV prevention, testing, public health issues on HIV management and how to optimize HIV programs.
Learners can also download a Statement of Participation (SOP) by completing more than 80% of the course. The course supports ansynchronous learning - meaning learners can complete the course at their own pace and can pick and choose modules they find most relevant.
A link to the course here: https://iversity.org/en/courses/relaunch-clinical-management-of-hiv