Over half a million tested for HIV in Kisumu

A past HIV testing drive. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A past HIV testing drive. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A molecular HIV/Aids viral load testing machine installed at Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) in Kisumu has increased by 53 per cent the number of people in the county getting tested.

The Cobas 8800 instrument installed in 2016 by Swiss healthcare firm Roche has grown the number of HIV/Aids tests by half a million thanks to the reduced results-waiting time.

The machine can handle up to 960 samples within an 8-hour shift compared to the one month span it traditionally took patients to get results.

“Viral load test requires an accurate, specific, efficient and reliable diagnostic equipment, with high throughput to handle a larger volume of samples and give results within a shorter time period for timely patient management,” said Maxwell Majiwa, the HIV Research Laboratory director at Kemri Kisumu.

Viral load tests assess the progression of HIV in the body, helping patients manage it and also helps determine whether there is a need to change the current treatment.

The Cobas 8800 instrument is the first of its kind in Kenya and was installed through a public-private partnership with Roche Diagnostics, Kemri, the Centres for Disease Control, The Clinton Health Access Initiative and the United States Agency for International Development (USAid).

Roche Diagnostics Kenya manager Richard Kyania said over a span of two years about 51per cent of people living with HIV/AIDS in Kisumu had suppressed viral loads.

“Within a year, the percentage had gone up to 79per cent, meaning that the country is on the right track to meeting the UNAids 90:90:90 goals,” he said.

The UNAids 90:90:90 goals targets that by 2020, 90 per cent of people living with HIV will know their status, 90 per cent of these will receive sustainable antiretroviral treatment and 90 per cent of those on treatment will have sustainable suppression of their virus. According to a report by Kenya Aids Strategic Framework, counties around the lake region of Nyanza have the highest number of HIV infections.