More testing encouraged for partners of PLHIV

26 June 2019 – Partners of people living with HIV (PLHIV) are at heightened risk of acquiring HIV; however, HIV programmes do not focus enough attention on them. In 2016, WHO issued guidelines to promote assisted partner notification, which offers HIV testing to partners as part of a comprehensive package of services for people with HIV. This method has been proven to increase HIV testing uptake and increase the number of HIV positive cases identified among partners of PLHIV by 150%.

A new demonstration project in Indonesia sets to promote HIV testing uptake
A new demonstration project in Indonesia sets to promote HIV testing uptake
WHO Indonesia

“The workshop and country visits were comprehensive and brought new insight to our knowledge on partner notification. The WHO consultant was able to bring site level story in very easy-to- understand language. We are excited to implement HIV partner testing services in Indonesia.”

Aulia Human, health worker

“We were very impressed about partner notification implementation in Viet Nam and Australia. Although we may face different challenges, this visit provided us strong evidence on partner notification success. Partner notification should be one of the core components of the HIV response. With support from WHO and partners we are working towards implementing and scaling up partner services in Indonesia.”

Helen Dewi, NAP partner notification focal point

Despite more than doubling the number of HIV tests delivered in the country between 2013 and 2017, some 60% of PLHIV are still unaware of their infection in Indonesia. As a result, it is estimated that only 14% of the 630 000 PLHIV are on treatment.

Indonesia’s National AIDS Programme (NAP) has started a new demonstration project to offer HIV services to partners of PLHIV and ensure the national HIV testing guidelines are updated to make it a policy.

Assisted partner services start with health workers asking PLHIV about their sexual or injecting partners. With their consent, health workers can then proceed to offer voluntary HIV testing to identified partners.

At the initial stage, the project focused on preparing health workers’ capacity and skills to deliver the services. So far, a national workshop has been held with health officers and providers from all 18 provinces, who were tasked with disseminating information in their districts for implementation.

With help from WHO and partners, Indonesia’s National AIDS Programme has developed tools for the implementation and evaluation of partner services. Civil society organizations – representing female sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people (known locally as “waria”), people in prisons and other closed settings, and people who inject drugs – were actively engaged in all action.

A man in Viet Nam reviewing instructions to perform HIV self-test
A man in Viet Nam reviewing instructions to perform HIV self-test
WHO/Van Nguyen

WHO also arranged a delegation from Indonesia to visit Australia and Viet Nam to learn from experiences of their long-standing successful programmes. In a visit organized by WHO Viet Nam, the National AIDS programme staff was able to observe and participate in hands-on learning to guide implementation and scale-up of community-based testing, self-testing and assisted partner notification for key populations. Employing these strategies in Indonesia will be critical, particularly among key populations, who account for up to 30% of PLHIV in Indonesia.

The delivery of HIV testing and other services aimed at partners of PLHIV is expected to commence in August 2019 in Indonesia, with ongoing support from WHO.