OHESI releases new report on HIV testing trends in Ontario

OHESI is pleased to announce the release of a new report titled “HIV testing in Ontario, 2016”.

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HIV testing is an early step in the HIV prevention, engagement and care cascade and an important gateway to a continuum of services. A person who receives an HIV-negative test result can be linked to supports to remain HIV-uninfected, while those receiving an HIV-positive result can be promptly linked to care and treatment. As we have learned more about HIV prevention strategies for HIV-negative individuals (for example, pre-exposure prophylaxis and services to address syndemic health issues), and the role of earlier treatment of people living with HIV in improving health and reducing HIV transmission, the importance of HIV testing has only increased.

The Ontario HIV/AIDS Strategy prioritizes the reduction of barriers to HIV testing in order to achieve its goals of preventing new HIV infections and promoting early HIV diagnosis. Over the past decade, several initiatives have been implemented in Ontario to achieve these goals, such as the expansion of anonymous testing sites in 2006, an HIV testing blitz program aimed at gay and other men who have sex with men in Toronto and Ottawa in 2011-2012 and the release of HIV testing frequency guidelines in 2012. In this time, new testing technologies have also been developed and made available in Ontario, including point-of-care tests that can provide results within minutes and HIV tests with shorter window periods.

The newly released OHESI report being announced today supports the strategy in monitoring trends in HIV testing. This new report contains data on the number of HIV tests from 2007 to 2016 and breaks this information down by age, sex, test type (i.e. nominal, anonymous, coded), exposure category and geography. This report also contains information on the percent of HIV tests that were HIV-positive (i.e. positivity rates). Testing trends are not only important for evaluating the success of testing initiatives and identifying populations for prioritization, but also provide insight into trends in new HIV diagnoses (published in a separate OHESI report).

We hope this report is useful for evaluating and guiding HIV policy and programming work across the province.