27 October 2016
HEALTH and Child Care Minister David Parirenyatwa said Government will soon roll out infant HIV diagnostic and viral load machines in the country’s 25 districts as the ministry decentralises infant diagnosis and viral load testing.
Minister Parirenyatwa made the announcement from the University of Cambridge, England this week adding that through Global Fund, the country will procure 100 machines that will be rolled out in 25 districts.
Named the Simple Amplification Based Assay (SAMBA), the machines that tests for viral load and infant diagnosis, were developed by Diagnostic for the Real World (DRW) of the University of Cambridge.
“The point-of-care SAMBA HIV tests will be procured through the Global Fund support to implement a minimum of 25 sites with a total of 100 machines to be installed across Zimbabwe, reaching at least 100,000 people annually, countrywide.
“This will complement the already existing viral load capacity tests. For the first time, patients in rural areas can be tested for HIV viral load at the point-of-care and know their status within two hours”.
If installed, the machines will bridge the gap of delays that have exited due the current setting where infant diagnosis was only done centrally, with HIV positive mothers waiting a bit long to know the status of their newborns.
The current centralized system of infant diagnosis has been an impediment to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV programming as the country aims to eliminate new HIV infections in babies.
Centralised Infant diagnosis has haunted some HIV positive mothers who have waited for longer periods to know their babies’ status.
The rolling out of the SAMBA machines according to Minister Parirenyatwa will also see patients in rural set ups being tested for viral load, a service that currently is not available in rural facilities.
SAMBA platform is developed specifically to provide point-of-care (POC) testing in resource-limited and remote areas.
Minister Parirenyatwa admits that the current testing methods, was characterized with delays with some results for these HIV-exposed infants taking longer than eight weeks. .
Due to the aggressive nature of the HIV infection in infants, unless diagnosed and treated early, half of HIV infected babies die before reaching the age of two.
According to the manufacture, the SAMBA HIV technology, however, can provide accurate early infant diagnosis from a heel-prick sample, allowing early treatment and thereby reducing the “lost to follow-up” rate.
The Health Minister noted that the procured of the machines were part of the country’s efforts to achieve the United Nations AIDS programme (UNAIDS) ‘s 90-90-90 ambitious targets.
The 90-90-90 targets seeks to have 90 percent of HIV individuals to be correctly diagnosed by 2020, with 90 percent of them receiving treatment and with 90 percent of treated individuals no longer having their viral load suppressed.
“The Zimbabwean Ministry of Health and Child Care has made a concerted effort to achieve the 90/90/90 goal as set out by UNAIDS.
“We will increase HIV viral load coverage from the current 5 percent to 50 percent by the end of 2017, with the aim of reaching 90 percent by 2019.
“In order to achieve these ambitious targets, 60 percent of HIV viral load testing will need to be carried out at point-of-care. Consequently, the successful implementation of SAMBA in Zimbabwe will play an important role considering the reduced costs of SAMBA machines,” Minister Parirenyatwa said.
Meanwhile the DRW will also donate additional machines to Zimbabwe, a collaborative effort that is set to bridge the gap in HIV patient care in resource-limited settings.