New innovation to detect HIV in infants in minutes

New born babies that test HIV positive will now be put under antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs after delivery following a new innovation by global leader in rapid diagnostics, Alere Inc.

This is possible through the new test – Alere q HIV-1/2 Detect that gives results in 52 minutes as opposed to what is currently in the country where infants results usually take three to four weeks.

The Alere q HIV-1/2 Detect is the first-ever molecular diagnostic that identifies HIV-1 and HIV-2 at the point of care in less than 60 minutes, and the first testing application on the Alere q platform. Point-of-care HIV testing could have a significant impact in Kenya, where an estimated 37,000 to 42,000 infants are infected with HIV each year due to mother-to-child transmission (MTCT).

“This is a significant milestone in the health sector in globally and more so the country. We are now working closely with the Ministry of Health and other relevant health insitutions to see how we can adopt the new innovation in our hosipitals both at national and county levels. This will go a long way in saving more lives in the country,” noted Dr. Martin Sirengo, Head of Kenya National Aids & STI Control Programme.

“Diagnosing HIV in infants via molecular, as opposed to antibody testing, is critical because babies born to HIV-positive mothers have the mother’s protective antibodies in their blood, and current point of care antibody tests are not able to discriminate between a mother’s and an infant’s antibodies to detect if a newborn is infected with HIV,” added Dr. Sirengo.

Early detection and treatment significantly increases the likelihood that HIV positive infants will survive.

“Currently, most newborns in Kenya are screened for HIV infection with dry blood spot testing. Because health workers have to wait 3 to 6 weeks for results, many potentially HIV positive infants are lost to follow-up and remain untreated,” said Dr. Martin Sirengo, Director of the National AIDS and STI Control Program (NASCOP) for Kenya.

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