A new technology eases HIV viral load tests, making results available within a matter of minutes. Results will also be usable by personnel that are not laboratory-trained in facilities that wouldn’t be considered as typical laboratory environments.
Viral load tests are tests that measure the amount of HIV copies in the blood of a patient, therefore determining the type of Anti-Retroviral Treatment that will be most effective.
With the previously available technology, it would take several weeks for patients to get their viral load test results since tests would have to be carried out in central laboratory facilities. This situation often requires transportation of blood samples from different health facilities to the central lab, before the results could be examined and results sent back to the patients.
“In some circumstances, it is fine, but there are times when you want the results on the same day. For instance, for a woman that is going to deliver, we need to know whether her viral load is suppressed or not because it determines her chance of transmitting HIV to the infant,” Dr. Kuku Appiah, the Director of Medical and Scientific Affairs at Abbot Rapid Diagnostics, said.
Abbot Rapid Diagnostics is a branch of Abbot Laboratories, which is an American health care company that is championing the technology. Dr. Appiah was in Rwanda last July 4 to present the solution to health sector actors.
In an interview with Sunday Times, she mentioned that the new technology miniaturizes the viral load laboratory, making it possible for tests to be carried out easily in smaller healthcare facilities that are not fully equipped with laboratory settings and by personnel who aren’t lab-trained. Results can be obtained in 70 minutes—a vast improvement compared to having to wait for weeks.
“It provides very accurate results that are comparable to the ones you would get from a laboratory. But the difference is that it can be done in a rural clinic and by someone who is not laboratory trained.” Dr. Appiah said
She highlighted the ease and convenience of using the technology since no user interaction is needed, no use of laboratory reagents, and no need for air conditioning.
Dubbed “m-PIMA,” the technology has been prequalified by WHO (World Health Organization).