A presentation made by Dr.Laura Fernàndez-López was granted Best Poster Awards at HepHIV conference. The work presented by Dr.Fernàndez-López was based on an article lead by EuroTEST and developed with join effort of COBATEST and other international organizations representing the community. The study investigated impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on testing services for HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections in the WHO European Region, March to August 2020, based on the survey assessment developed by the partners and implemented in the participating regions. Please see full article online.

The HepHIV conference took place 5-7 May 2021 in an online format. Dr.Megi Gogishvili presented two abstracts based on the descriptive data collected by COBATEST network.

A poster was presented with descriptive data on Community-Based Voluntary Counseling and Testing for HIV, Sífilis and HCV in Europe based on data collected by COBATEST network members. Testing data presented was collected by 50 CBVCT services in 19 countries during the period of 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2019, using the COBATEST standardized data reporting tools. Members reported total of 129,484  clients tested for HIV, 29,471 for Hepatitis and 28,747 for syphilis. The percentage of reactive HIV tests among members varied from 0.0% to 6.2%, with an average of 1.1%. Proportion of tests performed among population groups demonstrated need for CBVCT centers to scale-up access to HIV testing for SW and PWIDs and help them be aware of their infection status and further link them to proper care and treatment. Please find full presentation online.

A presentation was conducted on Evolution of key indicators for Community-Based Voluntary Counseling and Testing activity in Europe based on data collected by COBATEST Network during three consecutive years. From 2017 to 2019thirty-eight (2017) to fifty centers (2019) reported data using the COBATEST standardized data reporting tools. Members reported total of 371,227 clients tested for HIV, 45,399 for Hepatitis and 53,395 for syphilis. The percentage of reactive HIV tests across the years varied from 1.1% (2018 and 2019) to 1.3% (2017), with 1.2% for total population tested during the three years. Proportion of tests performed among population groups demonstrated that there are still gaps in testing, especially among transgender people and PWID. Further comprehensive research is needed to understand testing behavior of these groups so that CBVCTs can improve strategies tailored towards these clients. Please find full presentation online.

The COBATEST network is glad to announce upcoming collaboration with EuroTEST and with many other international organizations in a research led by EuroTEST on the impact of COVID-19 on the groups vulnerable to HIV and other STIs. Specifically, the study plans to learn impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on testing services for HIV, viral hepatitis and other sexually transmitted infections in the WHO European region from March 2020 to August 2020. The data will be collected using online survey assessment.

A utility evaluation of SD BIOLINE HIV/Syphilis Duo (Alere) and DPP® HIV-Syphilis Assay (Chembio) for the screening of HIV & syphilis in men who have sex with men will take place in the non-clinical settings of four COBATEST Network members (Gais Positius Barcelona, Legebitra Ljubljana, Baltic HIV Association, Alliance Global Kiev) and one associated member (HF Prévention Paris). Read the protocol.

Four of five sites have already begun recruitment and last week Laura Fernández from CEEISCAT visited three of the sites with representatives from the WHO to complete follow-up. The preliminary results are due to be ready by the end of 2019

The COBATEST Network Steering Committee convened for the first time on the 19 November, coinciding with the meeting to launch the new COBATEST Network and AIDS Action Europe collaboration. The committee consists of community actors Lella Cosmaro (Lila Milano) Daniel Simoes (GAT Portugal) Sebastian Meyer (DEVO Network) and Andrey Chernyshev (Alliance Global Ukraine), AIDS Action Europe representatives Michael Krone and Christos Krasidis and CEEISCAT representatives Laura Fernandez and Jordi Casabona. The minutes from the meeting are available here.

On the 14-15 May 2018, the COBATEST Network members’ meeting was held in Barcelona and the 2017 report was launched. It was a great opportunity for members to meet eachother and share experiences of using the COBATEST data collection tool as well as their services, especially in the areas of PrEP and ChemSex.

See what we discussed in the summary and the presentations below –

Introduction – Joan Colom, Public Health Agency of Catalonia (ASPCat)
European Testing Week – Lauren Combs, CHIP
Community Testing in Europe: WHO Objectives – Elena Vovc, WHO Regional Office for Europe
Past, Present and Future: The COBATEST Network – Jordi Casabona, CEEISCAT
Results from the COBATEST Network 2017 – Anna Conway, CEEISCAT
WHO study of Combined PoC Tests in CBVCTs – Laura Fernàndez López, CEEISCAT
COBA-Cohort – Nicolas Lorente, CEEISCAT
Quality Assessment of data in the COBATEST Network – Juliana Reyes Ureña, CEEISCAT
Rede de Rastreio, A National CBVCT Network – Paula Meireles, ISPUP

PrEP Services
Alliance Global – Andriy Radetsky
Checkpoint LX – Miguel Rocha
Czech AIDS Help Society – Ivo Procházka
Deutsche AIDS Hilfe – Michael Tappe
AthCheckpoint Greece – Sophocles Chanos

ChemSex Services
Alliance Global – Andriy Radetsky
StopSIDA – Luis Villegas
AthCheckpoint Greece – Sophocles Chanos

The COBATEST 2017 Report is now available – 36 of our members in 16 countries contributed their data.

In 2017, members reported 111,579 clients tested for HIV, 1,781 for Hepatitis and 6,643 for syphilis. The percentage of reactive HIV tests among members varied from 0.0% to 4.9% (GENDERDOC-M in Moldova), with an average of 1.3%.

Key populations (MSM, SW, PWID and migrants) are more likely than the general population to be returning for testing in the same CBVCT within 12 months and the proportion is especially high in SW and transgender people. This indicates that CBVCT services are catering to people who face barriers in accessing mainstream health services.

The types of services that members offer are expanding, and many now test for HIV, HCV, syphilis and more. To better reflect this reality we will start asking for data on syphilis and HCV testing in the aggregated submission form. The alarmingly high proportion of reactive tests among the few transgender people that were tested emphasises the need to collect good data on this population so that CBVCTs can better tailor services.

There are reporting gaps in some of the data collected, particularly data on confirmatory tests. This gap is largest amongst migrants, reflecting difficulties in performing follow-up with this group.

The data collected through the COBATEST Network is of high quality and useful in informing decisions within the organisation, at the national and the European level. In spite of this, most national surveillance systems are still not including CBVCT data in their testing statistics.

Read the full report here.

The first results of the COBA-Cohort, a project associated with the COBATEST Network, are now available online. The study is a cohort of HIV-negative men who have sex with men (MSM) tested for HIV in CBVCTs in six different countries. The partners (AIDES (France), AIDS Fondet (Denmark), Fondazione LILA Milano (Italy), GAT/CheckpointLX (Portugal), Legebitra (Slovenia) and Positive Voice/Athens-Thessaloniki Checkpoints (Greece)).

The COBA-Cohort finds that routine HIV testing is becoming normalised amongst men who have sex with men. Cohort participants most at-risk of HIV appear to be educated about the risks of HIV. This group are aware they are at higher risk, are more likely to know the HIV status of their partners and are more willing than other participants to potentially use PrEP in the future.

The data reported is based on a study period of between 15 and 24 months, depending on the study site. The cohort remains active so future publications will be based on a longer follow-up time and perhaps more participating CBVCTs. If your service offers HIV testing to MSM get in touch to find out more about how you can participate in the cohort.