HealthDay News — The number of HIV tests and cases identified among children aged 1 to 14 years decreased at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research published in the issue of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Ariana M. Traub, MPH, from the US Agency for International Development in Washington, DC, and colleagues examined changes in HIV testing and diagnoses among persons aged 1 to 14 years in 22 US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)-supported countries during October 1, 2019, to September 30, 2020, representing the 2 fiscal quarters before the COVID-19 pandemic (Q1 and Q2) and 2 quarters after the pandemic began (Q3 and Q4).

The researchers found that PEPFAR supported 4,312,343 HIV tests and identified 74,658 children living with HIV (CLHIV) during October 2019 to September 2020. A similar number of HIV tests was performed during Q1 and Q2, while the number decreased 40.1 percent from Q2 to Q3 and then increased 19.7% from Q3 to Q4. Among children aged 1 to 14 years, the number of HIV cases identified increased 7.4% from Q1 to Q2, decreased 29.4% from Q2 to Q3, and then increased 3.3% from Q3 to Q4. From Q1 to Q4, testing in outpatient departments decreased 21%, while testing from other strategies increased during the same period, including a 38% increase in mobile testing. Overall, 61.3% of the tests and 60.9% of cases were among children aged 5 to 14 years.

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“These findings provide important information for countries and programs on the most effective strategies for identifying CLHIV during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors write.

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