In its effort to ensure that the spread of the HIV virus is drastically reduced, the Federal Government has approved the use of a new test kit – Omega Visitect CD4 rapid test kit, to detect and monitor HIV infection.
The test kit, which also monitors a patient response to anti-retroviral therapy (ART), will be available for purchase and use in hospitals across the country.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, stated these during a media briefing on the dissemination of Omega Visitect CD4 rapid test kit, over the weekend in Abuja.
According to him: “HIV testing is the fulcrum of any HIV programme as it establishes the individual’s HIV status which then determines the subsequent package of prevention or treatment services that will benefit that individual.
“A person who tests negative is counselled on how to stay negative whilst a person that tests positive is immediately linked to anti-retroviral therapy (ART) services and so the importance of providing accurate and reliable diagnosis devoid of false negatives or false positive results cannot be over-emphasized.
“Current data reveals that Nigeria has 1.9 million persons infected with HIV with about 1.1 million on anti-retroviral therapy (ART). In order to meet the UNAIDS global 90-90-90 target of 90 per cent of people who are infected with HIV knowing their status, we must have 1.71 million people who know their status, which means we need to test and identify up to 600,000 HIV positive persons by December 2020.
“Also, our goal to ensure that 90 per cent of those who know their status receive anti-retroviral therapy (ART) is to have 1.53 million people living with HIV/AIDS on ART by December 2020. Obviously, the need for appropriate laboratory diagnostics and laboratory support for clinical decision and monitoring the effectiveness and safety of the regimens remains very important”.
The Minister added: “The purpose of CD4 estimation in people living with HIV/AIDS is not only to reflect the effectiveness of therapy with ART but also to identify people who might be vulnerable to opportunistic infections. The need to identify people with low CD4 count becomes imperative.
“In 2019, Federal Ministry of Health approved the conduct of the evaluation of Omega Visitect CD4 rapid test kit. The result of the evaluation showed that the test device performed well in identifying persons with low CD4 counts of <350cells/µl with a sensitivity of 97.9 per cent. It is therefore recommended for use in the National HIV testing algorithm. “These days, once people with HIV can get the virus suppressed to a level, they can live up to 100 years old. But you have to know that the medicine is working, so you have to check it at intervals. Therefore, the purpose of the CD4 rapid test kit is to know that the drug is working is”.
The National Coordination of the National AIDS/STI and Hepatitis Control Programme, Mr. Araoye Segilola, “CD4 rapid test kit will be very useful in advance HIV care. In the course of using this kit, when a person is infected with the virus, the CD4 is supposed to rise because it is responding to an infection in the body. However, if it is low in the body, then there is a problem. We also look at other opportunistic infections of which the prominent is tuberculosis. “In Nigeria, we have many hard to reach areas. Therefore, this point of care test will come in handy and guide doctors to know whether the drug the patient is taking is working well, and whether he or she is responding to treatment or not”.
Concerning cost and retail, the Nigerian Representative, Omega Diagnostics Limited, Alh. Majekodunmi Aborode, said, “It is going to be $6 per test kit, which is about N2,000, compared with the ordinary CD4 machine in a conventional lab. “It is less expensive, it does not require any maintenance, it do not require any electricity; also you will know your count result in 40 minutes. It is part of our plan to bring the technology to this country to start manufacturing it locally and add value to our economic development”.