The H-TEAM uses a special device to immediately identify acute infections so that treatment can be started in this crucial phase of the infection. HIV can be detected earlier using this testing device than by the standard combination tests. In the case of a positive result, men can visit a HIV practitioner in Amsterdam immediately, thanks to a special fast-track trajectory.
To stop the HIV epidemic in Amsterdam, it is important that people know their HIV status and access treatment in time. This is better for people’s personal health and also prevents further transmissions.
So, early treatment results in fewer new HIV infections and healthier lives for people living with HIV. Some 70 per cent of the HIV infections in the Netherlands occur among men who have sex with men. That is why these activities by the H-TEAM focus on this group.
The H-TEAM raised awareness of the symptoms of an acute HIV infection among men who have sex with men via a publicity campaign, including the new www.hebikhiv.nl website. Men can also complete a Symptoms Check on the site.
This check raises awareness of people’s own risk behaviour and the symptoms people might experience during the acute phase of an HIV infection. If the Symptoms Check indicates that a person may have an acute HIV infection, he or she will be referred to GGD Amsterdam (the local Public Health Service). A special procedure is in place whereby people who suspect that they have an acute HIV infection can be tested immediately using a special device that can detect HIV at an early stage. If HIV is actually found in a person, he or she can immediately visit an HIV practitioner in Amsterdam thanks to a special fast-track procedure.
Another campaign focuses on the importance of rapid HIV treatment and rapid testing after people have run the risk of an HIV infection. This campaign particularly focuses on groups at the highest risk of being infected with HIV. The campaign removes fears for the test results, by showing that HIV will only have a limited impact on people’s future (sex) lives.
To date X men have been tested using the rapid method. Of them, X had an acute HIV infection. Besides tracing HIV infections, spreading knowledge of the symptoms of acute HIV infections is important.
Over 150,000 people visited the www.hebikhiv.nl website. No less than 100,000 people completed the Symptoms Check – this encouraged them to think about their sexual risk behaviour and alerted then of the possible symptoms.
By making men who have sex with men aware of the advantages of rapid testing and rapid treatment, while also removing fears about the test results, we want to reach men who have never had a test or had a test long ago. In this way, we hope to trace more ‘hidden’ HIV infections and increase the number of people being treated. This will contribute to ending new HIV infections among men who have sex with men in Amsterdam.