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HIV diagnosis for infants to be made available in rural Kenya

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 21st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Students at Kenya's Strathmore University since 2001 have been developing and refining software for infant HIV diagnosis. The software has been implemented in 75 health center in the must rural parts of the country as part of first phase trials.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Once blood samples arrive at one of the nations four central Kenya Medical Research Institute, or KEMRI Center for Disease Control and Prevention CDC laboratories, all samples are logged into the system. Once completed, the software automatically generates a short message service to the rural health Center the sample was sent from.

After the diagnosis is completed, the system generates another message to confirm this. If the result is negative, the results are also revealed. Results are received in rural areas on printers and parents are notified by the clinic that their results are ready.

Jesse Mtembe, nursing officer at the Akithenesit Health Center in Teso North can't wait for his Center to be connected to a new software system for diagnosing HIV in infants.

Mtembe's patients will soon be able to receive the HIV tests results of their infants as soon as the relevant tests have been conducted at one of the country's central laboratories some 200 kilometers away. Parents in rural health Centers currently have to wait up to 18 weeks for the results.

"On the SMS printers that we have already installed in rural clinics, we only send negative results in real time. This is because as a policy, all positive results on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) equipment have to be re-run for confirmation in order to avoid false positives that might be due to contamination," Oscar Mulondanome a lab technologist at the Alupe Center says.

Unlike other HIV testing methods such as rapid tests, where a patient receives the results after a few minutes, testing for the virus in infants requires the PCR technique, which is used to amplify the genetic make-up, or DNA of a single or a few HIV viruses.

Early diagnosis in infants is conducted with the support of the National Aids and STIs Control Program and the United States Army Medical Research Unit.

"The database application has allowed real time analysis of data generated for active interventions and has a wide geographical coverage," Silvia Kadima, a research scientist at the KEMRI HIV laboratory says.

"We are projecting that by April this year, the software tool will be customized to Kenya's local needs, and that is when it will be officially launched and rolled out by the government," Kadima says.

She says that 50 more facilities would be connected for further trial phases before the product is officially rolled later this year. Kenya has a total of 904 listed public health Centers all over the country.

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