Byo faces CD4 viral load testing machines crisis
BULAWAYO is facing a viral load and CD4 testing machines crisis as three facilities have been failing to conduct tests due to breakdowns, thereby burdening Mpilo Central Hospital.
Statistics from the National Aids Council show that the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) failed to test clients for six months as its machines were down.
CD4 tests measure the number of CD4 T-cells in the blood to gauge the strength of the immune system in the presence of HIV infection.
Viral load testing, the gold standard in ART monitoring, is used to measure HIV levels in the blood, an indicator of the drugs’ success.
In 2013, WHO recommended viral load testing as the preferred monitoring tool for diagnosing and confirming ART failure.
UBH and Ingutsheni according to Nac did not conduct any viral load tests during the first quarter and third quarter of this year.
Statistics show that Mpilo Central Hospital was being overwhelmed due to breakdowns at other institutions.
The hospital conducted a staggering 20 296 CD4 tests while UBH conducted only 423 while Ingutsheni Central Hospital had 126. Bulawayo City clinics had 6 263 tests between January and September.
“The major problem we’re facing is that machines at UBH are always down. So far Mpilo has been consistent in doing viral load tests which amount to 5 054 from January to September,” said Nac.
UBH conducted 84 tests, Bulawayo City Council had 3218 while Ingutsheni had 37 during the same period.
UBH chief executive officer Mrs Nonhlanhla Ndlovu confirmed that the institution failed to do tests for six months as the only CD4 machine was down.
“We had a challenge because the machine could not be fixed for six months and the technician had to take it to Harare for repairs. We only have one machine so when it breaks down, it leaves us with no alternative and we just have to wait for it to be fixed,” she said.
Mrs Ndlovu said the CD4 machine started functioning well in August this year.
Although routine viral load testing is the standard of care for people living with HIV on ART in developed countries, the cost and complexity of currently available technologies limit availability in resourcepoor settings.
In Zimbabwe, viral load testing is done in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare. Blood samples must be collected at local clinics and hospitals and sent to central laboratories for analysis, which can cause lengthy delays in receiving results in the treatment cascade. — @thamamoe