Africa still has the highest prevalence of HIV globally with many people who are HIV positive going on to contract AIDS. A lack of awareness and poor access to testing and treatment are major contributors to the high numbers of those affected. Kenya Medical Research Institute Research Officer Joseph Mwangi, is attempting to change this through taking viral load testing and early infant diagnosis in the countryside.
Because there are very few testing and treatment clinics in Kenya, children and their parents must travel long distances to a clinic. After being tested they then have to wait up to two months for results to be returned. Samples are taken at the clinics and then sent to the central lab in Nairobi to go through PCR analysis. Once results have been dispatched, the families are requested to return to the clinic to receive the correct course of treatment. Around 30% of at risk population are currently being tested and of that, only 30% return to receive treatment. That leaves a large segment of the population living without treatment.
Dr Mwangi and his team have recognised this issue and are investigating ways to get treatments out to the rural areas to eliminate the travel and accommodation expenses for the families, as well reduce the current turnaround time between testing and treatment.
Mobile qPCR would allow for teams to perform point of care testing in rural areas, significantly reducing the dropout rates and increasing the percentage of the population being treated.
Diagnosing HIV in a child under 6 weeks old increases the chances of survival through to adulthood for those that are HIV positive. For the children that are born HIV negative, tailored courses of care are determined to ensure that HIV isn’t contracted after birth through actions such as breastfeeding. Also, survival rates for children born with HIV without treatment is 65% after the first year and only 47% after the second year. It’s important to test and treat infants early to give them the best chance of survival.
Ubiquitome is running a grants program for research groups who would benefit from a mobile qPCR device. Joseph Mwangi has been chosen as one of the finalists. To find out more about the program and view the other finalists, visit the website here.