Experts to discuss HIV testing and counselling for discordant couples
Date of event: 9-11 February 2011
Place of event: Harare, Zimbabwe
How do you deal with HIV, if only one of you--you or your partner--has the virus? To date, HIV testing and counselling approaches have largely focused on individuals, despite the fact that many people in stable relationships and marriages get infected with HIV.
Many men and women in stable relationships are unaware of their partner's HIV status, and many people with an HIV-positive partner are not aware of their own status. Up to fifty percent of people living with HIV who are in relationships are estimated to be part of discordant couples, where one partner has HIV and the other has not. Yet, global policy addressing the needs of such discordant couples is not readily available.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and its Office for the African Region (WHO AFRO) are organizing a consultation in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 9-11 February 2011, with key scientific experts to review existing evidence on this topic and develop initial recommendations for policy making in countries. The findings at the meeting will guide the development of the first-time WHO recommendations on HIV testing and counselling for couples.
Global recommendations on HIV testing and counselling for couples can be crucially important for low- and middle-income countries, especially for countries with high HIV rates, where discordant couples are at increased risk of HIV infections.
The expert meeting has the following objectives:
- To determine whether HIV testing and counselling should be offered for couples or individually
- To determine whether couples with mutual disclosure should be offered HIV testing and counselling instead of individual testing and counselling in antenatal care settings
- To determine whether antiretroviral treatment (ART) should be offered to HIV-positive partners in sero-discordant couples to reduce HIV transmission to HIV-negative partners
- To determine whether ART should be started earlier than clinically indicated for HIV-positive individuals in sero-discordant couples to reduce HIV transmission to HIV-negative partners.
Around 60 experts representing five regions and a broad range of stakeholder groups: researchers and academics, methodologists, programme implementers, representatives of Ministries of Health, policy makers, civil society representatives, people living with HIV, UN agencies and donor agencies are expected to participate in the meeting.
The resulting guidelines will then be circulated for peer review. WHO is also carrying out a qualitative study focusing on the views and experiences of people who have been through HIV testing, including people in sero-discordant relationships, to support the guideline development.