Government will soon adopt new effective and efficient point-of-care HIV viral load testing machines that process results within an hour, it has been learnt.
Previously, blood samples had to be taken to central laboratories for analysis.
The new machines – called m-PIMA HIV – ½ VL – were developed by US-based Abbott Laboratories and are able to establish the effectiveness of antiretroviral treatment.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo told The Sunday Mail recently that Government was “keen” on the new device.
“PEPFAR (US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) has the machine in our system and they have been researching on it. We all want evidence-based outcomes these days.
“They (Abbott Laboratories) have indicated that they will come and talk to us and we are waiting for them,” he said.
PEPFAR was formed by the US government in 2003 to offer services to countries affected by the AIDS pandemic.
Dr Moyo said new machines will help manage the disease.
In 2014, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and its partners launched the UNAIDS 90–90–90 targets, whose aim is to diagnose 90 percent of all HIV-positive persons, provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 90 percent of those diagnosed, and achieve viral suppression for 90 percent of those treated by 2020.
The global target is to eliminate AIDS by 2030.
Abbott director of medical and scientific affairs Dr Kuku Appiah said the new point-of-care device will go a long way in containing HIV.
“What our device does is that it is a miniaturised lab which can be placed inside the clinic. It works using a battery and can be transported to the most remote areas.
“Everything that it needs is compacted together, so what this means is that a patient can have the test and get their results in just over an hour and know immediately whether to change their treatment or continue,” she said.
Dr Appiah emphasised the importance of assessing the viral load of HIV positive patients as this was key in managing the pandemic.
“The aim of ARV’s is to stop the replication of the virus. So we measure how effective ARV treatment is by measuring the viral load, which is the measure of the number of copies of the virus in the blood. So when a person is on ARV treatment, the ultimate aim is that the viral load should be undetectable, meaning that the treatment is suppressing the replication of the virus,” she said.
The device is expected to be approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) soon.