Nairobi — Kenya has acquired the new diagnostic tools to boost the fight against HIV in East and Southern Africa.
The tool known as Aptima® HIV-1 Quant Dx assay will provide new approaches to make it quicker and easier for laboratories to diagnose and monitor HIV infections in the country.
The Director of Infectious Diseases Research at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Matilu Mwau says the tool is essential in early infant diagnosis to improve prevention and treatment interventions, as peak mortality occurs between six weeks to four months of age for children who have acquired HIV infection.
"Kenya through the Ministry of Health and partners has set an ambitious target to provide HIV viral load testing to 1.5 million people annually," said Prof. Mwau.
He noted that the flexibility and accuracy of the integrated diagnosis solution will help overcome multiple challenges faced by local laboratories. The new DBS sample solution will also improve the collection, preservation and transportation of samples from testing centers to laboratories.
"Use of dried blood spots for testing ensures that patients in areas with no testing facility can still access the services, as the samples can be easily transported," he said.
In Kenya, there are estimated to be over 110,000 children under the age of 14 living with HIV and an estimated 8,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2017.
The diagnostic solution tool by Hologic Inc will help overcome multiple challenges faced by local laboratories.
"We designed the Aptima HIV-1 Quant Dx assay and the Panther system keeping in mind the specific needs of viral diagnosis laboratories in Africa," said João Malagueira, Hologic's vice president, Europe South and Indirect Markets.
"Through this integrated testing solution, we want to partner with local authorities and international organizations to help the fight against HIV in east and southern Africa," he said.
With 25 million people infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa alone, there continues to be an urgent need for accessible and reliable testing, which is crucial for managing care and reducing the spread of the infectious disease.
"These volumes require systems that work efficiently from specimen collection, storage, transportation, testing and results transmission. We anticipate testing between 300-400,000 dried blood spot (DBS) specimens in 2019 and as a service provider we look for the technologies that will have a maximum output with minimal input," he said.
Access to accurate testing is the first step in ending the spread of HIV. While more people are becoming aware of their HIV status, several factors continue to impede this progress. Inadequate testing infrastructure and lack of access to laboratories are among them.
Following the recent Hologic Global Access Initiative, launched in partnership with the Clinton Health Alliance Initiative (CHAI) and MedAccess, the HIV-1 Quant Dx assay will be available at a price of Ksh1,200 ($12), with no upfront cost or capital expenditure, in nearly 50 nations including Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Panther system is designed to be modular and scalable, accommodating the needs of large labs and smaller ones alike, in urban and rural areas, with minimum infrastructure requirements.