HeathcareHIV: Screening up in 2021 but not back to...

HIV: Screening up in 2021 but not back to pre-COVID levels

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The situation is improving, but far from ideal. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening rose in 2021 but has not returned to pre-Covid-19 levels, France’s public health agency said on Tuesday, two days before World AIDS Day.

The health agency notes that with 5.7 million HIV serologies performed in life science laboratories, screening activity has started to rise again last year by 8%. The number of these blood tests fell 13% between 2019 and 2020 amid Covid after a six-year rise. 2021 levels remain below 6.1 million pre-pandemic views.

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In 2021, the number of identified HIV-infected people has stabilized at the level of 5013 people. It dropped sharply between 2019 and 2020 (-22%), partly due to reduced testing, “but possibly also due to lower HIV exposure associated with social distancing measures and reduced migration flows during the pandemic.” , according to SpF.

29% of infections are detected in the later stages

Heterosexuals (men or women) and men who have sex with men (MSM) remained the most affected groups, accounting for 51% and 44% of detected HIV cases, respectively. And 29% of these HIV infections were detected in the late stages of infection, and this proportion has not been declining for several years.

Such delays in detection represent a “missing chance,” French public health warns. “Early screening allows you to benefit from antiretroviral treatment, reduce the viral load in the body and no longer transmit HIV to your partners,” said Florence Loth, Head of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, IST. at Public Health France, during a press briefing. “Improved screening is needed to reduce the rate of late diagnoses,” she insists.

For bacterial sexually transmitted infections, screening rates, which declined in 2020, increased again in 2021 for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis and exceeded 2019 levels before the pandemic, according to Public Health France. Around 2.3 million people were screened for chlamydial infection at least once in 2021 (+9% compared to 2019), 2.7 million for gonococcal infection (+6%) and 2.8 million for syphilis (+3%).

The health agency has called for the “mobilization of all healthcare professionals” for HIV and STI surveillance as their participation in existing systems has declined since the Covid pandemic, especially for AIDS. “Data for 2020 and 2021 are weak and their interpretation must remain cautious,” she warned.

Source: Le Parisien

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