Zimbabwe leads global HIV tech revolution

by Sunday News Online | Sunday, Jan 14, 2018 | 1293 views
Dr Owen Muguringi

Dr Owen Muguringi

Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter

ZIMBABWE is leading the world in rolling out, at full scale, Point-of-Care (POC) HIV, cutting edge technology that is expected to revolutionise management of HIV in the world, a Ministry of Health and Child Care official has declared.

The country is the first in the world to use POC technology in Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) of HIV as well as viral load testing for adults.

This follows acquisition of 100 SAMBA POC machines by the Government, which will be distributed to 25 sites across the country.

Director of Laboratory services in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Mr Douglas Mangwanya said all eyes were now on Zimbabwe following the full scale rolling out of POC technology in the country.

Other countries are still using the centralized system, whose turnaround time for results is longer compared to POC.

Mr Mangwanya said the whole world was waiting to learn from Zimbabwe on how this technology will impact on management of HIV.

He made these remarks during a training workshop for 50 health workers on using POC machines in Harare last week.

The 50 health workers were drawn from the 25 site were the machines will be installed in the first phase of implementation of POC technology in the country.

“We are the first in the world to use this technology at such a scale. Elsewhere they are still conducting clinical trials. So all eyes are on us and we have to shine. We are leading in the use of this technology and everyone else would want to hear from us on how this works.

“We are going to present our experiences in Amsterdam sometime this year and all the other countries would want to learn from us,” he said.

Mr Mangwanya said the technology will help accelerate the country’s push towards the 90-90-90 global targets to end Aids by 2030.

He said the latest machines will complement the already available technologies in local health facilities.

“We have viral load machines at all district and provincial hospitals and these point of care machines will be put on sites where patients cannot easily access provincial hospitals.

“For us to reach the 90-90-90 targets we have to increase access to these services, and that’s what we are doing, as a matter of policy,” he said.

Speaking at the same occasion, head of the Aids and TB unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Owen Muguringi said POC technology was being introduced as part of efforts to bring HIV diagnosis closer to the people.

He said the new machines will be used primarily for Early Infant Diagnosis of HIV.

“In terms of bringing HIV diagnosis closer to the people and we saw these machines as one of the solutions.

“We are very happy that we are one of the countries in the world on the forefront to ensure that this technology is available. This technology will allow us to test and treat by reducing the turnaround time for results.

“Our commitment, as a Ministry is to ensure that HIV services are brought as close as possible to the people, especially in remote communities,” he said.

SAMBA POC machines inventor, Professor Hellen Lee said she was confident that POC would have enormous impact in the management of HIV, globally.

Professor Lee, who is based at Cambridge University in the UK is the president and chief executive officer of Diagnostics for the Real World (DRW), manufactures of SAMBA machines.

She facilitated the training for health works on the use of the technology.

“The technology has been used in other countries in clinical trials. In Zimbabwe it’s different, the technology is being rolled out for routine use. It is the first time in the world that such cutting edge technology is used in a generalized sense.

“The technology gives you equity of access to health care. Now for the first time this technology can now go to clinics that can only be reached by dead road,” she said.

Added Prof Lee: “I have worked in different African countries and I have been impressed by the scientific and technical ability of the health system in Zimbabwe. That gives me great confidence that the technology will make a difference.”

Some of the health workers who took part in the training expressed confidence that the new technology will make their work easy as well as positively impact on communities that they serve.

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