Since the beginning of this year, AHF China has taken the new World Health Organization (WHO) guidance of beginning antiretroviral treatment (ART) earlier into strong account: through home visits and consultations at clinics, doctors have been encouraging clients to seek ART regardless of their CD4 count, which indicates their level of immune health. Where the WHO once recommended a 350 CD4 count as the indication of ART need, the Organization recently raised the entry level to 500 CD4, allowing for treatment to begin earlier when it is more beneficial.
By the end of June, of the 77 patients receiving ART in Chongqing Province, 56 had CD4 counts between 350 and 500. In nearby Guangxi, 10 out of the 11 patients receiving ART had CD4 count of 350-500, and the final client was newly eligible for treatment under the new WHO guidance. In a further scale-up of Chinese prevention strategies, the team also launched a pilot program at the outset of 2013 in three hospitals implementing improved testing strategies to accurately identify the greatest number of people living with HIV.
“These three health centers span regions that have vastly different HIV prevalence rates and designated ART providers at national, provincial, and prefectural levels,” said Yang Xin Yu, AHF China’s Country Program Manager. “By the end of June, we made great progress.”
As of late June 2013, 2,082 people were tested for HIV at the Youan Hospital using this method, 65 were newly diagnosed as HIV-positive and linked to care. At the Kunming Hospital, 1,655 people were tested, with 38 found to be reactive and linked to care. Finally, at Zhaotong Hospital another 987 people were tested for HIV, and 12 were confirmed positive and linked to care.
Policy makers involved in the pilot project’s kick-off meeting included two representatives from the Ministry of Health’s Department of Disease Control: Deputy Director Dr. Sun Xinhua and Director of AIDS Prevention and Control Dr. Xia Gang; Director of The National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention (NCAIDS) at the China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), Dr. Wu Zunyou; and the heads of multiple Chinese nongovernment organizations (NGOs).