Atomo Diagnostics in Sydney are to receive and investment of $6 million from the US based Global Health Investment Fund (GHIF). GHIF was establish in 2013 by Bill Gates Foundation and the investment bank JPMorgan. Atomo Diagnostics will use the funding round to increase production of HIV self-testing devices and to expand sales in developing countries.
This is positive news for the HIV self-testing sector as it will stimulate more research into effective and convenient testing for all at risk HIV individuals. The most important factor in the prevention of HIV is certainly identifying at-risk individuals through HIV rapid test kits and ensuring they are tested and diagnosed before they can go on to infect healthy individuals. HIV treatments are making progress but prevention is certainly the most powerful weapon in the war against the current HIV epidemic.
It is fitting that the foundation chose to invest in an Australian company as Australia itself has seen a considerable rise in HIV infections, in particular among gay men in recent years. As international borders bur with international travel being readily available and sexual encounters oversees contributing to the infection of Australian citizens it is more important than ever to tackle this issue.
Recent news coverage has discussed giving healthy gay men HIV drug treatment hoping that if they are infected the drugs will kill the virus before it gets a hold on the immune system and goes onto require HIV treatment. Whilst this may save a few who are prepared to suffer the side effects of the strong anti-viral treatments it also sets a concerning precedent that some men may practice unprotected sex thinking they are now immune. This is a potential safety net in the event of a fall and possibly a weak one. It is not an HIV vaccination.
What is certain is that this is the start of more development leading to more HIV self-testing and early HIV detection.