Guidance on couples HIV testing and counselling - including antiretroviral therapy for treatment and prevention in serodiscordant couples
Recommendations for a public health approach
New WHO guidelines recommend offering HIV testing and counselling to couples, wherever HIV testing and counselling is available, including in antenatal clinics. For couples where only one partner is HIV positive, the guidelines recommend offering antiretroviral therapy to the HIV positive partner, regardless of his/her own immune status (CD4 count), to reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission to the HIV negative partner.
Today, only 40% of people with HIV globally know their HIV status. Up to 50% of HIV-positive people in on-going relationships have HIV-negative partners (i.e. they are in serodiscordant relationships). Of those HIV-positive individuals who know their status, many have not disclosed their HIV status to their partners, nor do they know their partners’ HIV status. Consequently, a significant number of new infections occur within serodiscordant couples.
CHTC offers couples the opportunity to test, receive their results and mutually disclose their status in an environment where support is provided by a counsellor/health worker. A range of prevention, treatment and support options can then be discussed and decided upon together, depending on the status of each partner.
Recent evidence confirms the benefit of early ART for people with a CD4 count above 350 cells/µL in preventing transmission to HIV-negative partners. In order to benefit from such opportunities, couples should be supported to test together and disclose their status to each other and access prevention, care and treatment services.