Almost half the world does not have access to screening tests, such as the ones to diagnose HIV

Almost half the world does not have access to screening tests, such as the ones to diagnose HIV

Currently, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, 47% of the world’s population has little to no access to diagnostic tests for several diseases, as detailed by an investigation carried out by more than 30 scientists from all over the world, published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Even though lack of access to these services, whether they be lab tests or diagnostic imaging (such as x rays, ultrasound or CT Scans, for example) is an old issue, the research team highlights that access to diagnosis has regained its importance during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Most affected populations 

The analysis points out that lack of timely diagnosis affects more people that live in conditions of poverty and marginalization, as well as low and lower-middle income countries. This delays identification and treatment (as well as treatment success) in people with diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis B, malaria and in general, newborn and maternal care.

Each year, 1.1 million premature deaths in low and middle income countries could be avoided by reducing the diagnostic gap (the amount of people who don’t receive the diagnosis they need) with conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, HIV and tuberculosis in the general population, and hepatitis B and syphilis among pregnant women.

This is why it is important to broaden access to these types of tests, since “an appropriate access is essential for equity and social justice”, the researchers argue.

Even though diagnostics is considered a fundamental area within quality health services, this is something that some health authorities do not recognize, which causes it to receive less funding than necessary.

The fact is that, with the innovations that have been developed in the last 15 years, especially with regards to technology and workforce, the diagnostic gap can be reduced, access can be improved and “democratizing the diagnosis” can be achieved in order to empower patients”, the researchers state.

Recommendations for action 

The research panel on the subject established 10 recommendations to overcome the issue of access to diagnosis that was found in their investigation:

  1. Create a national diagnosis strategy in each country, focused on achieving universal health coverage.
  2. Availability and accessibility to diagnosis in hospitals or primary care clinics.
  3. Increase the number of health workers and training.
  4. Legal framework that supports and supervises security and quality of diagnostic services.
  5. A national finance strategy in each country in order to implement diagnostic plans, including required infrastructure.
  6. Make diagnostics more affordable.
  7. Promote the development and use of technology in the best way in order to benefit the entire population.
  8. Address the diagnostic needs of populations in vulnerable situations.
  9. Advocate at all levels in order to ensure that the diagnostic area is recognized and properly financed.
  10. Create an International Diagnostics Alliance to support and monitor actions in order to improve diagnostics.

To control HIV, the first step is diagnosis. At AHF Latinamerica and The Caribbean we offer free HIV tests. Locate the closest center in your country.