Closing the book on the HIV/AIDS epidemic: Scaling up HIV testing in Asia Pacific with PodTech


The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, or the SDGs: 17 goals and many more targets for the world to meet by 2030.


Goal 3 is to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”.


Target 3.3 is to end the scourge of communicable diseases, a significant one being the HIV/AIDS epidemic.


Globally, we’ve made phenomenal progress in reducing the HIV burden in recent years. In 2021, it was estimated that there were 1.5 million new HIV infections – that is almost a third less than the new HIV burden in 2010. Despite the encouraging progress, however, we’re nevertheless off course from our targets. If we were on course, as decided at the 2021 UN General Assembly, we would be likely to see fewer than 370,000 new HIV infections in 2025.


If we want to achieve the 2030 SDG target relating to HIV, we must achieve this threshold, which is part of a larger set of interim targets for 2025. Alongside an emphasis on building societal enablers and integrated service delivery for people living with HIV (PLHIV), the 2025 targets also aim to have 95% use combination prevention. They target that 95% of PLHIV are aware of their HIV status, 95% of those who know their status initiate treatment, 95% of PLHIV who are on treatment are virally suppressed, and that there is 95% coverage of services to eliminate vertical transmission.


These goals are ambitious. But they are not completely out of reach. The best approach to bridge the testing and treatment gap? To target the most vulnerable populations, geographically and otherwise.


In 2021, the WHO reiterated that more than two-thirds of new HIV infections were reported among men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who inject drugs, and people in prison and other constrained settings. The WHO also highlighted that pretty much all new HIV infections in the Asia-Pacific region were reported among these key populations and their partners. Worse still was the relatively low level of HIV status awareness here – compared to a global average of 81%, only 75% of people with HIV in the Asia Pacific region were aware of their status.


Challenges in the fight against HIV


In 2018, Unitaid, UNAIDS, and the WHO noted that even though there had been substantial investments, existing HIV services were not reaching the key populations listed above. According to these partners, the fight against HIV/AIDS was in desperate need of innovation and diversity in service delivery.


At a workshop on “Building capacity for the roll-out of PrEP and HIV testing innovations in Asia and Pacific”, the health agencies shared best practices and lessons learned from pilot and implementation projects. These learnings were related to the rollout of two crucial tools relating to HIV testing and prevention: HIV self-testing (HIVST) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Additionally, they identified key enablers and barriers to the implementation of these important tools.


The upsides identified from initial projects were community mobilisation, integration of HIVST into existing services, and some population-led services. On the downside were political, cultural, and economic factors as well as effective monitoring programmes.


PodTech™’s modular factories to overcome challenges in HIV testing and prevention


PodTech™’s revolutionary podules™ have the potential to address a few of these challenges. Such ‘factory in a box’ setups could help localise the production of HIV testing kits and prevention medications. Bringing these production facilities closer to the communities that they are meant to serve can offer many advantages in terms of trust, pricing, reliability of supply, and most importantly, speed.


Challenge 1: Cost and availability of HIVST and PrEP drugs. One of the main challenges to the implementation of HIVST rollout programmes, as stated by Unitaid, UNAIDS, and the WHO, is the cost and availability of the testing and preventative interventions in question. By building pharmaceutical production facilities closer to the communities that need these interventions in the Asia Pacific, the shortened length of the supply chain can reduce costs. As can the resource- and time-efficient installation of prefabricated podules™, equipped with all but utilities like water and electricity. Additionally, domestically situated podules™ – given their agility and adaptability – can easily upgrade their production capacity to meet surges in local demand.


Challenge 2: Demand for PrEP in the community. Low demand for preventative measures against HIV infections is usually driven by a lack of awareness, lack of access, and/or mistrust. When production facilities are built close to or within the communities of the people that they will serve, awareness of and trust in them can increase. PodTech™’s podules™ can help regions and communities have more control over the circumstances in which pharma products for them are made.


Challenge 3: The need for speed. For the past few years, the world has been off-track in achieving its HIV eradication goals. If we are to meet the target defined under SDG 3, we need speed – especially considering the increasing number of new infections in key populations. With its modular approach, PodTech™ cuts the time to production by half compared to traditional construction. Going with prefab factories is a no-brainer in these circumstances.


Challenge 4: A holistic approach to managing HIV. The HIV response does not exist within a silo. The 2025 targets recognise that it exists within a larger socioeconomic endeavour to end poverty and improve people’s overall health and well-being. It is very much linked to the other Sustainable Development Goals and their fulfilment. Modular pharma factories can contribute to this cross-cutting mission by generating employment, improving health outcomes, and contributing to the overall economic development of emerging economies.


PodTech™ can be an important partner in scaling up HIV interventions and bringing them to the populations that need them the most. PodTech™’s podules™ bring incomparable speed, flexibility, robustness, and efficiency to biopharma needs in diverse parts of the world. They help those historically left on the margins to take their health into their own hands. Whether you are in the fight against HIV, associated communicable diseases, or any other health crisis – with PodTech™, it is possible.


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