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New HIV testing equipment to save infants in Kenya

Health & Science

More HIV-positive infants will be saved thanks to the latest equipment that drastically reduces the time required to get results after screening.

The current method of testing HIV in infants, dried blood spot testing (DBS), takes three to six weeks to give results.

This has compromised many infants as those who may have contracted the disease through mother-to-child transmission are not immediately put on treatment.

The DBS method is a form of bio-sampling in which blood samples are blotted and dried on filter paper.

The dried samples can be easily shipped to a laboratory and analysed using various methods such as DNA amplification.

National Aids and STIs Control Programme (NASCOP) Director Martin Sirengo yesterday said the new machine identifies infected infants in less than an hour.

"We have lost many potentially HIV-positive infants, or they remain untreated due to the length of time it takes to get the results from the old equipment. However, the new equipment, which uses molecular diagnostic technology to identify HIV-1 and HIV-2 at the point-of-care, has reduced the time to under one hour," Dr Sirengo said.

"This could have a profound impact on the war against HIV. Lack of immediate availability of results for confirmation of infection results in undue delay in starting life-saving treatment," he added.

In Kenya, up to 42,000 infants are infected with HIV each year. The National Guidelines for the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Aids state that early treatment significantly increases the likelihood that HIV-positive children will survive.

Lack of a reliable diagnostic test to detect HIV within the first two months of birth has been a big challenge.

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