STI AIDS Netherlands: H-TEAM introduces fastest HIV approach ever
Over seventy per cent of all new HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) is caused by men who are unaware of their HIV infection.
Call for alertness on acute HIV infection
It is precisely in the beginning stage of HIV, the ‘acute HIV infection phase’, that the virus is most easily transmitted. To prevent further transmission and maintain the health of the infected person, it is important to start antiretroviral treatment in this phase. For this reason, STI AIDS Netherlands and GGD Amsterdam, as part of the H-TEAM initiative (HIV Transmission Elimination AMsterdam), are starting a new approach on Tuesday August 18, which supports MSM in detecting and treating their HIV infection as soon as possible.
Central to this approach is the ‘Symptom Check’, a questionnaire that men can fill in on www.hebikhiv.nl (“Do I have HIV” – English version available). At the start of an infection, certain symptoms often occur. When men, shortly after engaging in unprotected sex, have symptoms that appear to be from a budding HIV infection, the Symptom Check provides them with a letter of referral with which they can directly go to GGD Amsterdam. There, a special counter for acute infections will open on August 18. A new testing device can detect an HIV infection at the onset of the first symptoms. Subsequently, the HIV treatment centers in Amsterdam offer an accelerated procedure to ensure that somebody with an acute HIV infection can go there to start treatment on the very same day.
Fastest approach ever
‘We have never been able to act as quickly as we are able to now in the case of a new HIV infection’, says Wim Zuilhof, program leader Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) at STI AIDS Netherlands. ‘With this new testing process the infection can be detected even earlier. And that’s very important in the fight against HIV, as the virus is very easily transmitted during the acute HIV infection phase. Fast treatment in this phase prevents that. For the infected person’s own health too, it is important to start with medication as soon as possible. There are strong indications that the immune system remains nearly intact if antiretroviral medication is started as soon as possible after infection. Every day counts.’
About the H-TEAM
Amsterdam is the first European city to start a project directed at eliminating the spread of HIV on a city level. The H-TEAM initiative is a collaboration between all parties involved in the combat against HIV, and the target groups. The H-TEAM receives financial support from the AIDS Fund and other sponsors. The organizations working together within the H-TEAM are: Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD), Stichting HIV Monitoring (SHM), RIVM, STI AIDS Netherlands, GGD Amsterdam, HIV Vereniging Nederland and general practitioners and hospitals in Amsterdam. The H-TEAM combines the latest medical findings with psychosocial research and campaigns directed at risk groups, practitioners and other health care professionals. If the project turns out to be successful, it’s scope will be expanded on a national level.
Read the full article on the website of STI AIDS Netherlands (Dutch only).