Faster and more frequent testing
The H-TEAM also focuses on fostering early diagnosis by developing and implementing HIV testing strategies aimed at insufficiently reached target groups that often enter care late. By ensuring that as many people as possible know their HIV status, the H-TEAM wants to halt the HIV epidemic.
Faster and more frequent testing: why?
Faster recognition of the early symptoms of HIV ensures that people can start treatment earlier. Early treatment prevents deterioration of the immune system and gives people an excellent life expectancy. If people are treated in time, they can live as long as people without HIV. Moreover, effective anti-retroviral (ART) treatment largely reduces or even eliminates the chance of transmitting infections.
Faster and more frequent testing
The H-TEAM promotes testing by raising awareness of the (early) symptoms and the importance of early testing among professionals and specific target groups. The aims are:
- More HIV testing and an increase in the percentage of people who know their HIV status
- Being able to diagnose HIV earlier
>>> We accomplish this by focusing on:
HIV testing offered by professionals such as GPs and hospitals
mapping the characteristics of individuals that enter care late in order to develop tailor-made interventions for this group
testing initiated and implemented by individuals and communities themselves
facilitating fast and effective partner notification through Team Partner Management of the STI clinic
Scroll down to learn more about these strategies and subprojects.
Of all HIV patients in the Netherlands, around one third are diagnosed by a general practitioner, one third at a local public health service STI outpatient clinic, and one third in a hospital. This means that GPs and hospitals play an important role in diagnosing HIV infections in the Netherlands.
However, recent studies demonstrate that many opportunities for offering HIV testing are not being identified or utilized sufficiently frequently by healthcare providers. Patients and professionals still experience barriers such as fear, stigmatization, limited risk assessment and risk perception, and lack of knowledge about new HIV treatment and prevention opportunities. Furthermore, HIV testing in case of indicator diseases is not yet standard procedure among general practitioners and medical specialists. By offering interactive training sessions, the H-TEAM aims to improve testing behavior among GPs. In addition, the H-TEAM wants to promote proactive HIV testing by medical specialists through an indicator-based testing intervention.
The Last Mile: Phase 1
The title “The Last Mile” refers to finding and diagnosing the last 5% of people in Amsterdam who live with an HIV infection but do not know it themselves, and in particular those who are at risk of receiving late care with an advanced infection.
We still know too little about people who come into care late. Developing a successful strategy requires a greater understanding of the different characteristics of this highly diverse group. In the first phase of this project, these characteristics are examined within various subprojects. Read more about the three subprojects below.
The Last Mile: Phase 2
Men who have sex with men (MSM) have the highest rate of late presenters, so it is essential to reach this population group if we want to control the HIV epidemic in Amsterdam. The social networks within the MSM community offer a unique opportunity to address the fear, burden and social stigmas associated with HIV (testing). Based on the studies conducted in Last Mile Phase 1, and through co-creation/participation with MSM, interventions will be developed to normalize HIV testing and reduce stigma. The interventions will specifically target psychosocial, demographic, geographic and behavioral factors associated with previously untested MSM. Due to the participatory approach of working together with the community, the intervention remains effective and remains community property.
The Last Mile Phase 2 answers four key questions during this process:
- What are the perspectives of the MSM community and technical experts on how best to involve never/infrequently tested MSM to increase testing for HIV?
- What social and community mobilization strategies emerge in the community co-creation process that influence test acceptance?
- What are the best strategies and how can those strategies be implemented?
- What is the effect of the intervention/campaign/strategies on the willingness of the target groups to be tested for HIV?
Client-initiated / community-based testing
H-TEAM encourages communities to address the need for HIV testing from within the community itself, with an emphasis on testing for, by, and in the community itself.