ROSARIO, Argentina (November 30, 2012) – In observance of World AIDS Day 2012, formally marked each year on December 1st, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization which currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 183,000 individuals in 27 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean Eastern Europe and Asia, marked the occasion in its newest partner country—Argentina—with a World AIDS Day event to remember: the City of Rosario, Argentina, AHF Argentina, and multiple local health care partners, specially Fundacion Bienestar and Dr. Lupo´s team, set a new Guinness World Record by conducting 3,733 free HIV tests in a single eight hour period today, Friday, November 30th in the Argentinian city of Rosario. The Guinness category is formally known as “Most HIV Tests Given in One City in Multiple Venues in One Day.” Guinness officials were on hand to verify the results, which easily surpassed the previous record holder of 467 free HIV tests set in London, UK in 2011 by the non-profit group 56 Dean Street at the G-A-Y Bar in that city’s SoHo district. That group will try another attempt to beat the new Guinness Record starting tomorrow at 12 noon in London.
“This Guinness World Record on HIV testing sends a message to the rest of Argentina, Latin America and the world that it is possible to break the barriers of HIV stigma and get thousands of people to voluntarily come in to get an HIV test,” Dr. Miguel Pedrola, President of Fundación Bienestar of Argentina. He said that the local perception of HIV testing in Rosario has been strengthened by the testing efforts AHF has led around the world, and that this more welcoming view of the testing has allowed for earlier diagnoses and a more timely provision of treatment for those who test positive.
“The new Guinness World Record on HIV testing in Rosario this year provides the basis for a healthy competition among other countries and cities to work toward achieving even higher testing numbers and will help normalize the entire testing process as a routine matter of health and wellness,” said Dr. Patricia Campos, AHF´s Bureau Chief for Latin America. Campos added that to ensure AHF and its allies were able to provide continuous testing opportunities even after World AIDS Day, AHF has shipped 20,000 rapid HIV tests to Latin America from Mexico, 10,000 of which are for Argentina and 10,000 for Peru.
Dr. Jorge Saavedra, former Director of the National Center for the Prevention and Control of AIDS (CENSIDA) in Mexico and current AHF´s Global Ambassador, said the new results presented by the United Nations Programme on AIDS showing a worldwide reduction in HIV-related mortality prove that testing and treatment are the first step to ending the global HIV epidemic. He commended the decision of Argentinian health authorities to change their antiretroviral (ARV) treatment initiation guidelines to start treatment earlier for HIV-positive patients, a move Brazil recently emulated and which he expects also soon be adopted by Mexico and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Thirteen years ago, Dr. Sergio Lupo from the Center for Care and Clinical Research on Immunodepression (CAICI) began an HIV testing tradition here with the participation of medical student volunteers from the National University of Rosario and the Universidad Abierta Interamericana. But this year the testing initiative was on target to increase access to HIV rapid testing so much that Guinness World Records’ officials were on hand for the momentous day and provided a certificate of the record. With rapid testing available in ten different venues throughout Rosario within the same eight-hour period, the challenge was readily met and a new world record set.
AHF began its activities in Latin America in 2007 and has developed a strong and innovative program for the implementation of rapid HIV testing in urban areas, especially in Mexico. Two weeks before the World AIDS Day Guinness record event in Rosario, AHF provided training to volunteers and health professionals from the provinces of Santa Fe and Cordoba in Argentina, as well as staff from the Ministry of Health of Peru and Paraguay’s NGO Somosgay, in order to implement permanent HIV rapid testing programs in these three countries.
“This is a necessary step to really stop the growth of the epidemic,” Dr. Saavedra said. “HIV treatment, much like the treatment for tuberculosis, not only serves the most important purpose of keeping those who are HIV-positive alive, but it is also a move forward in public health since the transmissibility of the virus decreases by 96% when the patient’s viral loads become undetectable due to the treatment.” He said one of the main reasons people with HIV worldwide die despite the availability of antiretroviral treatment (ART) is because people are not getting tested to detect the virus at an early stage, and many who are diagnosed with HIV are not offered ART soon enough for the treatment to be most effective.
The Official Guinness Award was officially given by Ralph Hannah, Judge from Guinness Records, to the Mayor of Rosario, Monica Fein, AHF´s Global Ambassador, Jorge Saavedra, Dr. Miguel Pedrola from Fundacion Bienestar and to Dr. Sergio Lupo