In February 2018, the British medical journal HIV Medicine published the special issue “Outcomes of the HepHIV 2017 Malta Conference: Joining Forces for Earlier Diagnosis and Linkage to Care Across Europe”. The HepHIV 2017 conference was organized by HIV in Europe, in collaboration with European stakeholders, from the 31 January – 2 February 2017 in Malta, and was the second European conference to bring together stakeholders from the fields of HIV and viral hepatitis to discuss timely testing and care for the two related conditions.
The HepHIV 2017 Malta Conference was attended by 258 people from all over the world. Among the participants – a European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, representatives from ECDC, WHO Regional Office, European AIDS Treatment Group and many others.
The special issue of HIV Medicine provides an overview of the main challenges in this field across Europe and it contains 12 conference presentations addressing questions about testing policies and strategies, monitoring and evaluation of different testing activities and linkage to care. Three of the short communications derive from the three-year project OptTEST by HIV in Europe.
Follow the link to read the special issue: HIV Medicine: Outcomes of the HepHIV 2017 Malta Conference: Joining Forces for Earlier Diagnosis and Linkage to Care Across Europe
The European Commission’s contribution to strengthening health systems: From HIV testing and linkage to care to integration of HIV, Hepatitis, TB & STIs
On 19 September 2017 an open conference was held in Brussels at Thon City Hotel to present policy relevant outcomes from the two EU-co financed projects OptTEST and Euro HIV EDAT, which have come to an end after three years of intense work.
In the afternoon a policy session and debate on how to move towards integration of HIV, hepatitis, TB & STIs was arranged with the official launch of the EU-co –financed Joint Action on integrating prevention, testing and link to care strategies across HIV, viral hepatitis, TB and STIs in Europe (INTEGRATE), which brings together 29 partners from 15 countries and runs for three years.
Commissioner for Health & Food Safety Mr Vytenis Andriukaitis delivered a speech in relation to the INTEGRATE Partnership Forum 20 September.
Community Training in Berlin
September 13 and 14th 2017, the first European HIV Academy for Enabling Legal Environments brought together 30 advocates from 20 countries working on HIV-related law and policy reform across the WHO Europe region.
This European Legal Enviroments Training Academy (#ELETA) was a joint collaboration of the HIV Justice Network, AIDS Action Europe, European AIDS Treatment Group and Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+).
The meeting was a fantastic opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of the many legal barriers to health, dignity, and HIV prevention for people living with, and affected by, HIV; increase skills and capacity of people living with and affected by HIV by using new tools created by each of the #ELETA partners; develop stronger relationships and networks within and across Europe; and catalyse co-ordination and strengthen community voices from across Europe on the road to AIDS 2018 and beyond.
Thanks to our hosts at Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, everyone who participated, and to our funding partners, OptTEST by HiE and ViiV Europe.
Coming soon - #ELETA the video!
As part of the meeting presentations of the Legal and Regulatory Barriers website (http://legalbarriers.peoplewithhiveurope.org/)
were made as well as a discussion on how this could be updated and used for advocacy in country)
See presentation on Legal and Regulatory Barriers to testing and treatment here.
National Stakeholder Meeting: Optimizing HIV testing and Linkage to care in Spain
On the 14 September 2017 at the National Center for Epidemiology, ISCIII, Madrid a meeting was held to discuss how findings from the Opt-test project can help curving the HIV epidemic in Spain. On the agenda were the following presentations:
The meeting allowed for a rich discussion of the progress towards curving the HIV epidemic in Spain.
Ann Sullivan, lead of OptTEST's work on Indicator Condition-guided HIV testing, is interviewed in the July EUROBulletin and eFeature isssued by OptTEST partner MEDFASH. In the interview Ann reflects on the changing direction of HIV testing approaches and discusses opportunities for normalising HIV testing and using community and indicator condition-guided testing strategies to reduce late diagnosis. She concludes that "indicator condition-guided testing, with adequate monitoring and evaluation, is likely to be an effective strategy. It is opportunistic (patients are often already having a blood test done), pre-test discussion time can be minimised and the opportunity cost of spending time collecting samples for HIV testing alone is reduced. It is a cost-effective way to identify undiagnosed HIV infection in all population groups, whether at high risk or not, and can complement approaches targeting those most at risk. Indicator condition-guided testing is effective and it wins on all levels". You can read the full interview here
OptTEST contributed to the global and European discussion about innovative and effective HIV testing strategies and linkage to care at the AIDS2016 Conference in Durban, South Africa. OptTEST partners EATG and GNP+ were present at the European Networking Zone where some of OptTEST's current results and on-going work were discussed. There is consensus that at all levels (local, national, regional) it is essential to better target access to testing to key affected populations in programmes and to remove stigma, legal and regulatory barriers that prevent affected persons to come forward. A lot more has to be done to ensure that access for all is a reality – and we will not achieve this if we continue to do ‘business as usual’.Read the full press release here
A new searchable database developed by OptTEST partner GNP+ and consultant Lisa Power shows the most common legal and regulatory barriers to HIV testing, linkage to care and treatment access across Europe and in each individual European country, including how they affect particular key populations. The data stems from an online survey answered by 78 respondents covering 2/3 of the 53 WHO European countries. The data will be updated and coverage improved based on feedback from the users. Lisa Power who is working on legal and regulatory barriers added, "We talk about increasing testing, yet we make it hard for people to do so by surrounding it with laws and regulations that deter innovation and discourage those at greatest risk from coming forward. We have to change this if we are to make a difference". The database can be found here
OptTESt partner EATG runs the Ageing with HIV - A Lifecycle Approach project about growing up and growing old with HIV. The project started in December 2015 and lasts for 30 months. The conference “New Challenges and Unmet Needs of People Living With HIV/AIDS Aged 50+” was organised in Berlin between 31 March and 3 April 2016. More than 70 participants, scientists, medical professionals, regulators and patient experts participated. Read more here.
Sara Croxford, Public Health England, presented OptTEST WP4 work with focus on the analysis made on the feasibility of using the HIV TESSy dataset (case-based reporting of all new diagnoses made in the WHO European Region) to monitor linkage to care in Europe. Read more here.
WP5 lead Ann Sullivan presented recently published results on IC guided HIV testing at the Expert meeting: Evaluation of ECDC HIV Testing Guidance in the EU/EEA, Stockholm 28-29 January 2016. Ann presented work from OptTEST Work Package 5 on developing tools and implementing quality interventions to increase the offer of HIV testing to patients diagnosed with ICs. See meeting report here.
European HIV Prevention Summit
Lisa Power presenting what works and what doesn't work in testing in Europe based on her work done for OptTEST by HiE at the European HIV Prevention Summit organised by AVAC and the European AIDS Treatment Group. Find her presentation here.
As a side-meeting to EACS OptTEST SC held a face-to-face meeting 21 October. A Modelling Expert meeting on “Cost-effectiveness of HIV testing strategies in priority groups and regions” was also held 22 October at the conference venue.
OptTEST WP4 was discussed at an ECDC Expert Meeting in Stockholm on Optimising Analysing of the HIV Continuum of Care in Europe.
is an international behavioral and psychosocial science conference that addresses issues related to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, focusing both globally and on specific communities and countries hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Conference took place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from July 28 to 31, 2015.
OptTEST was one of the nine projects funded by the European Commission presented at CHAFEA Health Programme symposium “Doing the right things right – Guidance, Standards and Quality in the European response to HIV and co-infections”. The symposium was co-hosted by AIDS Action Europe together with Quality Action and Euro Health Net.
Each project had the opportunity to present ‘snapshots' addressing the project need, central approach, methodology and main results/products to date of the project. Ann Sullivan presented the OptTEST project (see presentation here).
At the 'fishbowl' discussion the participants engaged in a discussion on how can EU projects through products such as guidance, standards and quality tools, increase effectiveness, tackle stigma and discrimination, increase access to testing, prevention and treatment and keep HIV/AIDS and co-infections high on the political and health agendas at the European, national and local levels.
During the conference OptTEST information materials were also disseminated at the World Café at the Chafea stand. This allowed to introduce the project to the wider audience attending the conference and provided a good opportunity for networking.
On 29 May 2015 the first annual meeting for the OptTEST project was held in Tallinn, Estonia.
One year into the three year-project period the first annual meeting provided an opportunity for project partners to meet face to face. Advisory Board and collaborating partners were invited to participate – some participated in person other via video conference.
On the agenda were updates from the work packages on completed and upcoming tasks and milestones, in particular status on baseline data, as well as a budget and reporting status from the coordinating center. There was also discussions of cross cutting issues such as how to secure sustainability in project outcome, e.g. in relation to usage of tools and guidelines.
September 2nd 2014 was the date for the official Kick-off meeting of the OptTEST project “Optimising testing and linkage to care for HIV across Europe”, co-funded by the 2nd Health Programme of the European Union. This is a three-year project with the overarching objective to reduce the number of undiagnosed people with HIV infection and newly diagnosed late presenters within the European Region, and to promote timely treatment and care.
The project will provide tools, guidelines and assessment methods to analyse and effectively respond to late presentation for HIV care and treatment, with strong emphasis on the most effected regions and groups. Comparisons will be made between regions of Europe with different epidemics, healthcare structures, HIV testing policies and HIV-related stigmatization and criminalization issues.
The Partners met for a workshop on the 1st September to discuss the four core work packages on: Linkage to and retention in HIV care; Development and Implementation of tools and strategies for indicator condition guided testing; The cost-effectiveness of HIV testing strategies in priority groups and regions; Stigma and legal barriers to provision and uptake of HIV testing services.