April 2017

OptTEST at BHIVA 2017

During the BHIVA conference in April, WP4 of the OptTEST project, ran a quality of care data drop-in clinic organised by Public Health England. In the UK, one of the OptTEST pilot countries, data collected as part of the national surveillance of HIV is used to create local dashboards of HIV care quality (e.g. measurements of linkage to care, retention in care, treatment coverage etc). HIV clinicians were able to stop by the PHE/OptTEST stand or make appointments to discuss their local dashboards, data quality, reporting issues, and care data summaries. Project staff were at hand to promote the project and WP4 analyses to date.



March 2017

Cost-effectiveness of HIV testing in Spain

Julia del Amo presented the OptTEST modeling  work on cost-effectiveness of HIV testing approaches in Spain at the XVIII Spanish National Congress on AIDS and STIs held in Sevilla, Spain, 22-24 March 2017.  The presentation is available here.

January 2017 

EU Health Programme Projects' Symposium

This event was co-organized between OptTEST, Euro HIV EDAT and Chafea and had as its aim to foster dialogue, discussion and collaboration among EU co-financed projects and actions within the field of HIV, Hepatitis and TB. 

The Symposium was co-chaired by Wolfgang Philipp from DG SANTE and Olivia Castillo Soria, Head of Area of HIV Prevention, from the Ministry of Health, Spain. The proceedings from the Symposium are available here

All presentations are available here: 



Photographer: DARRIN J. ZAMMIT LUPI - see: http://www.darrinzammitlupi.com

OptTEST at HepHIV 2017 

OptTEST partners have been presenting results in different sessions, and the last day of the HepHIV 2017 conference was a symposium sponsored by OptTEST with special focus on optimization of testing and linkage to care. 

Oral presentations: 

Posters:  

Round table discussion: 

  • The role of stigma and criminalisation barriers in discouraging testing. Panel members: Julian Hows (GNP+) and Lisa Power among others.

Picture gallery from HepHIV





Photographer: DARRIN J. ZAMMIT LUPI - see: http://www.darrinzammitlupi.com

November 2016

New searchable database

Want to know what legal and regulatory barriers your country, or others in Europe, are putting in the way of better HIV testing and treatment? Barring The Way To Health is a new searchable database which outlines a range of impediments to key populations and others with HIV who seek testing and access to care across the 53 countries of Europe and Central Asia. You can pull out a particular issue that concerns you across Europe, or read about a particular country. You can comment and offer amendments - and if your country is one of the small minority not yet covered, we welcome your information on it.

The OptTEST legal & regulatory barriers toolkit, available in full by Spring 2017, will be of use to anyone who wants to dismantle such barriers in their own country. The toolkit takes a "pick and mix" approach, enabling users to take what they need without wading through an enormous pdf. A series of case studies illustrates how activists, clinicians and other alliances took down specific barriers to HIV testing and treatment in their countries. Tip sheets show how to go about implementing these ideas, or your own, within your country setting. Slide sets will support presentations about the importance of identifying and mitigating barriers, to enable alliances and discussion. Each piece of the toolkit will be separately downloadable and the ideas within them adaptable to differing country circumstances and the original materials will be accompanied by a critical reading list which points the reader to many more existing resources online, with short explanations of their usefulness.


October 2016

Sharing Cost-Effectiveness Results
 
In October, OptTEST partner Yazdan Yazdanpanah presented preliminary data on the cost-effectiveness analysis of testing strategies in  a multi-stakeholder meeting convened by the Haute Autorité de la Santé (HAS) as part of the French testing guidelines review process. Participants to the meeting included patients and civil society organisations, epidemiologists and health economists. The analysis for France indicates the cost-effectivness of testing groups at risk every 3 to 6 months and once in a lifetime for the general population. The revised testing recommendation should be published in December. The results of OptTEST research on cost-effectiveness analysis of testing strategies for Estonia, France and Spain will be presented at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in February 2017 in Seattle, USA.
 
A similar national level meeting was held in Spain in October with national stekholders and decsion-makers and in Estonia a meeting is planned for the 19th December.  

OptTEST at ILGA conference

Lisa Power made a presentation about “Removing barriers to HIV care and prevention in the LGTBI community/ removing barriers” at a workshop at the ILGA annual conference in Nicosia, Cyprus, 19-22 October 2016. At the event, participants were first given an overview of LGBTI involvement in HIV work over the past 30 years. After a brief presentation of the outcomes of ILGA-Europe’s membership survey on HIV-STIs, participants looked at examples from the OptTEST project's research and case studies. They heard about a range of existing LGBTI involvement in HIV prevention and support, examined legal barriers hindering LGBTI people in accessing sexual health services and considered the role of stigma in deterring LGBTI people from testing and getting support. The short presentations were followed by work in groups on ways for LGBTI activists to get more involved in sexual health work. in their local context. These ranged from participation in European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week through to checkpoints, challenging stigma and other practical responses appropriate to them. Feedback from the workshop has been positive.

MeSH symposium in Tallinn 

Liis Lemsalu presented the methodology of her and Kristi Rüütel’s recent study at the the MeSH (Measurement and Surveillance of HIV Epidemics) scientific symposium in Tallinn, Estonia on 26-27 October 2016. The presentation mentioned OptTEST and underlined how extracting data for the cost-effectiveness analysis of testing strategies had led to the idea of a new registry-based study which will help fill gaps in monitoring the HIV epidemic in Estonia. The event brought together experts from around the world in the field of routine HIV measurement and surveillance to identify and discuss innovative and efficient methods to move us towards and beyond 2020. 

OptTEST at Glasgow 

OptTEST Steering Committee met during the HIV Drug Therapy conference in Glasgow 24-26 October 2016 to discuss work progress and outcomes. The work on Legal and regulatory barriers to HIV testing was presented in a poster by Lisa Power, who explains the contend and objectives of the work in this video clip.


Continuum of Care meeting in Poland

Clinician Justyna Kowalska engaged in the OptTEST work on Indicator Condition guided HIV testing had organized the 1st Continuum of Care meeting 14-15 October 2016 in Warsaw, Poland. At the meeting national leading experts, as well as international guests, met and discussed the Continuum of Care cascade as a public health tool and how to improve data collection in Poland.   


 

OptTEST at the Civil Society Forum 

Julian Hows (GNP+) presented the OptTEST work on Legal and regulatory barriers to HIV testing at the Civil Society Forum meeting in Luxembourg 10-11 October 2016. The group was very interested in the new database and Julian encouraged everybody to verify their own country data and provide feedback if required.  



September 2016

Linkage to care meeting Athens 

This meeting is a first in a series of national stakeholders' meetings where OptTEST's work on Linkage to Care (WP4) is presented and discussed with national experts, clinicians, surveillance people and community groups.n In Athens the meeting was hosted by Greek CDC (KEELPNO). 

     

August 2016 

Strategies to reduce late diagnosis 

Ann Sullivan, lead of OptTEST's work on Indicator Condition-guided HIV testing, is interviewed in the July EUROBulletin and eFeature isssued by OptTEST partner MEDFASH. In the interview Ann reflects on the changing direction of HIV testing approaches and discusses opportunities for normalising HIV testing and using community and indicator condition-guided testing strategies to reduce late diagnosis. She concludes that "indicator condition-guided testing, with adequate monitoring and evaluation, is likely to be an effective strategy. It is opportunistic (patients are often already having a blood test done), pre-test discussion time can be minimised and the opportunity cost of spending time collecting samples for HIV testing alone is reduced. It is a cost-effective way to identify undiagnosed HIV infection in all population groups, whether at high risk or not, and can complement approaches targeting those most at risk. Indicator condition-guided testing is effective and it wins on all levels". You can read the full interview here 

July 2016 

OptTEST at Durban 
 
OptTEST contributed to the global and European discussion about innovative and effective HIV testing strategies and linkage to care at the AIDS2016 Conference in Durban, South Africa. OptTEST partners EATG and GNP+ were present at the European Networking Zone where some of OptTEST's current results and on-going work were discussed. There is consensus that at all levels (local, national, regional) it is essential to better target access to testing to key affected populations in programmes and to remove stigma, legal and regulatory barriers that prevent affected persons to come forward. A lot more has to be done to ensure that access for all is a reality – and we will not achieve this if we continue to do ‘business as usual’.
Read the full press release here
 
July 2016 

New Legal Barriers Database  

A new searchable database developed by OptTEST partner GNP+ and consultant Lisa Power shows the most common legal and regulatory barriers to HIV testing, linkage to care and treatment access across Europe and in each individual European country, including how they affect particular key populations. The data stems from an online survey answered by 78 respondents covering 2/3 of the 53 WHO European countries. The data will be updated and coverage improved based on feedback from the users. Lisa Power who is working on legal and regulatory barriers added, "We talk about increasing testing, yet we make it hard for people to do so by surrounding it with laws and regulations that deter innovation and discourage those at greatest risk from coming forward. We have to change this if we are to make a difference". The database can be found here

 


April 2016

Conference on HIV testing above the age of 50 

OptTESt partner EATG runs the Ageing with HIV - A Lifecycle Approach project about growing up and growing old with HIV. The project started in December 2015 and lasts for 30 months. The conference “New Challenges and Unmet Needs of People Living With HIV/AIDS Aged 50+” was organised in Berlin between 31 March and 3 April 2016. More than 70 participants, scientists, medical professionals, regulators and patient experts participated. Read more here.  

March 2016

Meeting of the ECDC STI and HIV Networks 

Sara Croxford, Public Health England, presented OptTEST WP4 work with focus on the analysis made on the feasibility of using the HIV TESSy dataset (case-based reporting of all new diagnoses made in the WHO European Region) to monitor linkage to care in Europe. Read more here. 

January 2016 

ECDC Expert meeting on HIV testing 

WP5 lead Ann Sullivan presented recently published results on IC guided HIV testing at the Expert meeting: Evaluation of ECDC HIV Testing Guidance in the EU/EEA, Stockholm 28-29 January 2016. Ann presented work from OptTEST Work Package 5 on developing tools and implementing quality interventions to increase the offer of HIV testing to patients diagnosed with ICs. See meeting report here.

European HIV Prevention Summit

Lisa Power presenting what works and what doesn't work in testing in Europe based on her work done for OptTEST by HiE at the European HIV Prevention Summit organised by AVAC and the European AIDS Treatment Group.  Find her presentation here. 

October 2015

OptTEST at  EACS

As a side-meeting to EACS OptTEST SC held a face-to-face meeting 21 October. A Modelling Expert meeting on “Cost-effectiveness of HIV testing strategies in priority groups and regions” was also held 22 October at the conference venue.



5 OptTEST poster presentations were displayed in Exhibition Area  and OptTEST was present at the EATG booth with posters, pamphlets and publications. 

September 2015 

Linkage to care consensus definition 

OptTEST WP4 was discussed at an ECDC Expert Meeting in Stockholm on Optimising Analysing of the HIV Continuum of Care in Europe. 


 

July 2015

The AIDS Impact

The AIDS Impact

is an international behavioral and psychosocial science conference that addresses issues related to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, focusing both globally and on specific communities and countries hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Conference took place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from July 28 to 31, 2015.

OptTEST was one of the nine projects funded by the European Commission presented at CHAFEA Health Programme symposium “Doing the right things right – Guidance, Standards and Quality in the European response to HIV and co-infections”.  The symposium was co-hosted by AIDS Action Europe together with Quality Action and Euro Health Net. 

Each project had the opportunity to present ‘snapshots' addressing the project need, central approach, methodology and main results/products to date of the project. Ann Sullivan presented the OptTEST project (see presentation here).

At the 'fishbowl' discussion the participants engaged in a discussion on how can EU projects  through products such as guidance, standards and quality tools, increase effectiveness, tackle stigma and discrimination, increase access to testing, prevention and treatment and keep HIV/AIDS and co-infections high on the political and health agendas at the European, national and local levels. 

During the conference OptTEST information materials were also disseminated at the World Café at the Chafea stand. This allowed to introduce the project to the wider audience attending the conference and provided a good opportunity for networking.

 


March 2015

First annual meeting

On 29 May 2015 the first annual meeting for the OptTEST project was held in Tallinn, Estonia. 

One year into the three year-project period the first annual meeting provided an opportunity for project partners to meet face to face. Advisory Board and collaborating partners were invited to participate – some participated in person other via video conference.

On the agenda were updates from the work packages on completed and upcoming tasks and milestones, in particular status on baseline data, as well as a budget and reporting status from the coordinating center. There was also discussions of cross cutting issues such as how to secure sustainability in project outcome, e.g. in relation to usage of tools and guidelines. 



September 2014

OptTEST Kick-off meeting

September 2nd 2014 was the date for the official Kick-off meeting of the OptTEST project “Optimising testing and linkage to care for HIV across Europe”, co-funded by the 2nd Health Programme of the European Union. This is a three-year project with the overarching objective to reduce the number of undiagnosed people with HIV infection and newly diagnosed late presenters within the European Region, and to promote timely treatment and care.

The project will provide tools, guidelines and assessment methods to analyse and effectively respond to late presentation for HIV care and treatment, with strong emphasis on the most effected regions and groups. Comparisons will be made between regions of Europe with different epidemics, healthcare structures, HIV testing policies and HIV-related stigmatization and criminalization issues.

The Partners met for a workshop on the 1st September to discuss the four core work packages on: Linkage to and retention in HIV care; Development and Implementation of tools and strategies for indicator condition guided testing; The cost-effectiveness of HIV testing strategies in priority groups and regions; Stigma and legal barriers to provision and uptake of HIV testing services.

During the Kick-off meeting on the 2nd, members of the OptTEST Advisory Board were present, alongside representatives from the European Commission. The work packages were presented by their Leads and were discussed in turn, with valuable input from all attendees. The meeting generated many fruitful discussions and was considered a successful and productive start to the OptTEST project.