TBEC is proud to be an endorser of European Testing Week, taking place from the 20th to the 27th November. We encourage all of our members to get involved in the many activities taking place, and have included a media toolkit of suggestions for social media below. European Testing Week (ETW) is a regional awareness campaign coordinated by EuroTest that encourages organisations to unite for a concerted effort across Europe to raise awareness on the importance of early diagnosis and increased access to testing services. EuroTest is an initiative that started in 2007 to draw attention to the importance of early detection and care for people with HIV, and was later expanded to include TB, Hepatitis and STIs. EuroTest’s overall objective is to ensure that people living with TB, HIV, viral hepatitis, or other STIs have access to testing services for early diagnosis so that they can be treated earlier.

ETW is in its eighth year and now occurs biannually with ETW occurring every 6 months, once during the Spring (May) and once in Autumn (November). The theme for the November 2020 ETW emphasises the importance of continuing to advocate and raise awareness on the importance of HIV, viral hepatitis and STI services, and sharing experiences on how to do this despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

TB and HIV co-infection in Europe

Over 2.3million people are living with HIV (PLHIV) in the WHO European region, and up to one fifth of them are unaware of their status. Scaling up HIV testing to increase the number of people who are aware of their status is a public health imperative in its broadest sense – it reduces the morbidity and mortality of individuals as people can be linked to the appropriate treatment and care. It also reduces the HIV transmission rate as HIV+ people can receive treatment, lowering their viral load and reducing the chances of transmitting the virus, and it has proven to be an economically sound approach. With the new UNAIDS treatment target 90-90-90, which aims for 90% diagnosed, 90% on treatment and 90% virally suppressed by 2020, it is crucial to increase the number of people aware of their status, whether that is TB, HIV or both. 

In the European region according to WHO, over 50% of the people diagnosed with HIV are diagnosed late and this means that the person is unaware of their HIV status and is not tested until they have a low CD4 count.

Knowledge is the first step towards treatment! 

This is particularly true for PLHIV who are co-infected with TB, as PLHIV are at a much higher risk of acquiring active-TB than the general population. TB is a leading cause of death among PLHIV; therefore, it is vital that they are able to access testing for early diagnosis and receive effective treatment early on. Encouraging HIV testing can help identify HIV+ people so that they can be started on ART and reduce their risk of acquiring TB or an opportunistic infection. ETW is a great opportunity to raise awareness of HIV-TB co-infection, and encourage combined testing services for both PLHIV and TB patients. 

 ENDING STIGMA

People living with TB, hepatitis, HIV and other STIs often face stigma and discrimination. This is a major barrier in seeking both diagnostic and treatment services associated with these infections. Stigma can negatively influence many aspects of everyday life of people living with one or more of these diseases. The main factors to stigma include; misconceptions around routes of transmission and the fear of infection. 

Overcoming the barrier to stigma and discrimination needs to be harnessed by policy makers, this can be addressed by ensuring access to services, from prevention to testing and to treatment and follow-up care and by encouraging innovation such as health systems reforms that facilitate new, more people-centred health services. Stigma can also be reduced by communicating the benefits of testing and treatment and ensuring that information is shared with clients and that it is accurate.

If you wish to know more about testing or find out how to get a test, you can access the European test finder platform, operated by aidsmap, here.

We encourage our members to get involved in the different activities that Eurotest is organising, from free webinars to working with key opinion-makers

One way to build momentum is to contact your Health Minister or if you live in an EU-Country, contacting your local MEP. You can find information about how to do this and a template letter here 

We also hope that many of you will get involved on social media, sharing the message about the importance of testing, ending stigma, and working together to manage co-morbidities. We have created some suggested tweets and Facebook posts for you to use below using the hashtags #EuroTestWeek and #TestTreatPrevent. If you do, please tag us so we can share and spread your message. 

Suggested tweets:

EuroTEST is calling on the European community to unite for one week from 20th-27th
Nov to increase awareness regarding the benefits of #TB, #HIV and #hepatitis testing, so that more people become knowledgeable about their risks, understand that there is effective treatment available and are aware of their #TB, #HIV and/or #hepatitis status.

It’s better to know your status as soon as possible because today people living with #TB, #HIV and/or hepatitis B can live well with a long-life expectancy when treatment starts early; and those with hepatitis C can be cured.

Late diagnosis of #TB, #HIV and/ #hepatitis is more costly for the healthcare system. Patients presenting with an HIV indicator (for example hepatitis C or B (acute or chronic) or infectious mononucleosis-like illness) should be offered an HIV test. #TestTreatPrevent

Increasing access to, and acceptance of, free, confidential and voluntary #TB, #HIV and #hepatitis testing including linkage to treatment and care need to be a priority for governments across Europe #EuroTEST

HIV and/or hepatitis testing should be voluntary, confidential and offered in a wider range of settings than is presently available. Other settings may include healthcare and community-based settings and via outreach programmes by peers and/ or medical staff. #TestTreatPrevent

A positive #TB, #HIV or #hepatitis test result requires that your patient is linked to appropriate care and treatment. When people are diagnosed with #HIV and/or #hepatitis late, they are less likely to respond well to treatment and more likely to have health and treatment complications. #EuroTEST

The 2015 @WHO guidelines on #TB, #HIV testing services state that lay providers who are trained and supervised can independently conduct safe and effective #HIV testing using rapid testing kits to support task sharing in the health sector. #EuroTEST

Suggested Facebook posts:

EuroTEST is calling on the European community to unite for one week from 20-27 Nov to increase awareness regarding the benefits of HIV and hepatitis testing, so that more people become knowledgeable about their risks, understand that there is effective treatment available and are aware of their HIV and/or hepatitis status.

The 2015 WHO guidelines on HIV testing services state that lay providers who are trained and supervised can independently conduct safe and effective HIV testing using rapid testing kits to support task sharing in the health sector.

A positive HIV or hepatitis test result requires that your patient is linked to appropriate care and treatment. When people are diagnosed with HIV and/or hepatitis late they are less likely to respond well to treatment and more likely to have health and treatment complications.

HIV and/or hepatitis testing should be voluntary, confidential and offered in a wider range of settings than is presently available. Other settings may include healthcare and community-based settings and via outreach programmes by peers and/ or medical staff.

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