Guyana soon to test for HIV viral load
The Ministry of Health is in the process of acquiring a machine that will test the viral load of patients with the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV).
This test allows medical practitioners to determine the amount of HIV in a patient’s blood. Viral load also predicts how quickly the disease will progress. This tracks the efficiency of treatment a patient is receiving.
Minister, Dr Frank Anthony on Friday said funds have been allocated in this year’s budget to purchase the machine.
Guyana is working to achieve the UNAIDS 95-95-95 by 2025 target which outlines that by the target date, 95 per cent of persons with HIV should know their status, 95 per cent should be on treatment with 95 per cent viral suppression rate.
Measuring the third target of 95 per cent viral load suppression is a challenge that the ministry is looking to overcome with the purchase of the machine.
“Recognising that’s an issue and we would not be ready to accurately monitor this third 95, the ministry has taken a decision to buy a viral load machine so that we can do those testing, in country, currently, if somebody would require to know how well they are doing on their viral load they would have to do that test privately and it’s a very costly test,” Dr Anthony explained.
He noted that Guyana is making progress with the other two targets.
“Guyana has done well in the first 95, and that is we have most of the people who are HIV positive know their status, I think we are about 93 per cent of those persons would know their status. In terms of treatment, we have a little bit more to go, especially during Covid because when we had high numbers, during Covid we had a fall out for some people, they didn’t come back to get treatment and we are now trying to bring them back into the clinic,” the Health Minister said.
With regards to testing the CD4 count of an HIV positive person, Dr Anthony said this is only necessary if that person has not been taking the required medication or has other complications.
“CD4 was an important parameter that was used in monitoring HIV patients because when you have HIV these cells tend to be lower, however in terms of treating patients, this is no longer that significant because at one time for you to go on treatment, your CD4 had to be less than 200, then they shifted that to make it 500 and so forth, so it was used as a parameter to put people on treatment, that’s not what we are doing now,” Dr Anthony said.
The CD4 count shows how robust a person’s immune system is. The higher the count the healthier a person is.